Andy Murray did his best to keep a hindering hip injury out of the spotlight in the opening week of the Wimbledon fortnight.
As many scrutinised his hobbling gait and questioned his lack of matches ahead of third major of the year, the world number one insisted that he was feeling fine.
However, in the fifth set of a brutal quarter-final with giant American Sam Querrey, Murray couldn’t hide his apparent pain as he went down 3-6 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-1 on Centre Court.
There was no call for the trainer or hint of Murray throwing in the towel, just disturbing looks of anguish as he limped around the court, unable to repel a barrage of powerful hitting from his inspired opponent.
It was a disappointing way to end a terrific contest, in which Querrey, who stunned Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 12 months ago, had taken the match to the world number one with his booming serve and potent forehand.
After two hours and 42 minutes, the Californian’s powerful game finally broke down the Brit, as Querrey became the first American man to reach the semi-finals of a major since Andy Roddick in 2009.
Perfect start from Murray
Murray had lost to Querrey just once in their seven previous meetings, and in the opening exchanges that pattern looked set to continue.
The American lost his serve in the second game of the match after a couple of cheap errors, and it proved decisive as Murray wrapped up the first set without facing a break point.
Querrey made a better start to the second set, however when Murray broke again to take a 4-3 lead, the top seed appeared to be in complete control.
Yet, Murray’s concentration briefly wavered and Querrey took full advantage to level the match at a set apiece.
He broke Murray twice after the Brit dropped a couple of forehands short for Querrey to attack.
Querrey fights back
The momentum swung again at the start of the third as Murray raced into a 3-1 lead. However, when serving for the set at 5-4, cracks began to appear in the Brit’s game.
Murray managed to fend off his opponent in a third set tie break, taking it 7-4 after Querrey dragged a forehand into the tramlines.
Querrey found some success by foraying to the net and taking Murray’s time away, yet it quickly became clear that the Brit was struggling midway through the fourth set.
The American duly levelled the match, winning the fourth set in under half an hour.
Defending champion begins to struggle
Murray’s serve speed also dropped significantly but that shouldn’t detract from Querrey’s achievement, after he held his nerve in difficult circumstances.
By the end of the match, the American was playing his best tennis against a floundering Murray, who will lose his world number one ranking if Djokovic wins the title on Sunday.
Querrey will move on to his first grand slam quarter-final on Friday, where he will take on Croatia’s Marin Cilic.