LONDON • Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was sent crashing out of Wimbledon by big-serving Sam Querrey yesterday, shattering the Serb's hopes of securing the first calendar-year Grand Slam in 47 years.
Tennis' world No. 1, bidding for a fourth Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam, suffered his earliest loss at a major tournament since the 2009 French Open.
The 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) defeat, played out after an overnight suspension and two further lengthy rain interruptions, also ended his Open era record run of 30 successive match wins at Grand Slams and his streak of having reached 28 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals.
Querry, the 28th seed, who had only gone past the third round at Wimbledon once, in 2010, hit 31 aces and, most importantly of all, held his nerve under pressure to earn the biggest victory of his career and blast a hole in the top half of the men's draw.
"It's incredible, especially to do it here at Wimbledon," Querrey said. "I'm just so ecstatic right now, so happy.
Selected - Men's 3rd rd: Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Andrey Kuznetsov (Rus) 7-5 6-3 7-5, Nicolas Mahut (Fra) bt Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 3-6 6-3, Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Lukas Lacko (Svk) 6-3 6-3 6-4. 2nd rd: Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) 6-4 3-6 6-0 4-6 6-2.
Selected - Women's 3rd rd: Angelique Kerber (Ger) bt Carina Witthoeft (Ger) 7-6 (13-11) 6-1, Misaki Doi (Jpn) bt A. Friedsam (Ger) 7-6 (7-1) 6-3, Simona Halep (Rom) bt Kiki Bertens (Ned) 6-4 6-3. 2nd rd: Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) bt Monica Niculescu (Rom) 4-6 6-2 6-1, Sloane Stephens (USA) bt Mandy Minella (Lux) 3-6 7-6 (6) 8-6.
"Today, I played the break points really well. Every time I had a break point, I was able to come up with a big serve and then in the tie-break, I hung in there and got a couple of loose points and that was it."
When the two men resumed at noon, having been held up overnight by rain, with Querrey two sets up, the consensus was still that Djokovic, the master of extricating himself from difficult situations, would find a way back.
But though he won the third set easily enough, Djokovic looked listless, strangely out of sorts and unable to find the rhythm and accuracy that has dominated the game for the past few years.
Usually so aggressive, he was pushing the ball, especially on his backhand, while the pace of his serve dropped alarmingly as the fourth set wore on.
He had his chances. After another rain break at 1-1 in the fourth set, before which he missed three break points in the opening game, he missed another three in the next game.
The Serb saved two of his own at 2-1 and having missed two more himself, saved three more at 3-2 as Querrey tightened up.
He broke to lead 5-4 only to falter, netting a forehand volley to give the break back. Querrey held for 6-5 before another rain delay - this time of just over an hour - left Djokovic needing to hold to stay in the match.
He managed that, holding to love, but in the tie-break, he squandered a 3-1 lead and then after saving one match point at 4-6 with an ace, he pulled a forehand wide to hand the jubilant American victory.
Querrey, the world No. 41, goes on to face 34-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut for a place in the quarter-finals.
"I am just going to be happy with this right now and look forward to the next round a little bit," he said.
In the women's draw, the omens were starting to look rather promising for Simona Halep, as she skipped into the fourth round with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Dutch danger woman Kiki Bertens.
The only other time the Romanian fifth seed had strung together three successive victories at the All England Club, she made it all the way to the semi-finals in 2014.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN