John Isner pulls out a thrilling win over Andy Murray

When another, younger American fell by the wayside, 37-year-old John Isner paused in the British twilight, all 6ft 10 inches from him, his hopes of tennis’ most prestigious tournament still alive.

The crowd cheered for every mistake he made, as well as for every winning shot from his opponent, homeland hero Andy Murray. But eventually, thanks to a monster serve that landed him 36 aces and gave him three match points, Isner became the second American to advance to the third round at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

As one of the oldest players on the tour, Isner understood the importance of beating a two-time champion, whom he described in a subsequent interview on center court as the more successful all-rounder.

“At the age I am now, I have to enjoy these moments. That was one of the biggest wins of my career, given the atmosphere alone, [which] was fantastic,” said Isner, who triumphed 6: 4, 7: 6 (4), 6: 7 (3), 6: 4. “To play as well as I did against one of our greatest players of all time, Andy Murray, was a huge achievement for me.”

Just before that, Reilly Opelka, who was higher seeded than Isner, was defeated by Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven, ruining the most successful starting run by American men at Wimbledon in 27 years. Of the 16 participants in the main draw, 13 had won their opening games and advanced to the second round.

Four went a step further Wednesday: Isner; Orange’s Steve Johnson, who also beat a British player at 32; Tommy Paul, 25; and Frances Tiafoe, 24. Opelka and Christian Harrison lost. The highest-seeded American, Taylor Fritz, who is seeded at No. 11, plays his second-round match on Thursday – against another Briton.

Scottish-born Murray, 35, is trying to come back from a series of injuries – including two surgeries on his hip – that have marginalized the former world No. 1 and dropped him to 52 in the rankings. Most recently, he expanded his collection of titles at an event in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2019.

He had never lost to Isner in eight previous encounters, the last of which was 5½ years ago. Wednesday’s game was her first on grass and her first at Wimbledon, the venue that made Murray a national icon when he won his first title in 2013, which marked a 77-year drought for British men at their home Grand Slam tournament ended.

But Isner knows something about Wimbledon records himself. He has contested the two longest matches ever recorded here: a 6-hour, 36-minute marathon in the semifinals in 2018, which he lost, and a whopping 11-hour, 5-minute win in 2010, which he won commemorated by a plaque on the grounds of the All England Club.

Tennis player Andy Murray screams.

Andy Murray pumps up against John Isner during his second round match at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

(Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

His outing against Murray lasted three hours and 23 minutes.

“That’s really all that came down to it,” Isner said after serving the last game that included back-to-back aces. “I guess I didn’t give him many opportunities to spin his web and get tangled up in it. … I had an incredible day of service and it took me every single part of it to beat it.”

In his opening round match on Monday, Isner hit 54 aces. Throughout Wednesday’s game, his deliveries were regularly clocked at more than 130 mph, whizzing cannonballs that Murray had trouble reading, let alone returning.

“He served very close to the lines at key moments,” Murray said. “If he does that [it] it doesn’t always matter what you try to do. Not easy.”

A comeback seemed possible after Murray won the third set, the roar of the partisan crowd could be heard throughout the grounds. But after he broke in the fifth game of the following set, the prospects of another Wimbledon championship faded in the gathering twilight. A nearly 10-minute pause for officials to close the Center Court roof and turn on the lights around 9 p.m. failed to turn the momentum back in Murray’s favor.

It was all over a few minutes later, with an enthusiastic Isner and a disheartened Murray suffering his earliest Wimbledon elimination. Isner chuckled when the on-pitch interviewer asked how the match related to his previous Wimbledon experiences.

“A lot of people ask me about that game in 2010, ask me about the great memories I have of that game, but being on the pitch for 11 hours is more of a nightmare,” he said. “Really, I think that could be up there for me.”

His next opponent is the 20-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner.

Two Americans also advanced Wednesday: Jessica Pegula won her first-round match and Alison Riske her second-round match. Ann Li lost her bid to reach the third round.

Emma Raducanu, the reigning US Open champion and Britain’s big hope on the women’s side, also lost her second-round match to unseeded France’s Caroline Garcia 3-6, 3-6. John Isner pulls out a thrilling win over Andy Murray

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