It had been nearly a year since the last shocker like this, when the top three seeds at an ATP Tour event all lost their opening matches.
But in that case, on clay at a small tournament in Kitzbuhel two weeks after last year’s Wimbledon, we weren’t talking about three of the top six players in the world – including last year’s Wimbledon champion and runner-up.
On Tuesday at Queen’s Club, the seeds went three, two, one – out. It’s the first time in the Open era that has ever happened there.
No. 3 seed Milos Raonic was the first to take the court, and the first to bow out. After reaching the final a year ago, the 26-year-old Canadian lost 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8) to 21-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis. He had eight break points in the first set, and converted none. He led the second-set tiebreak 6-3, and lost it 10-8.
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) June 20, 2017
Following them onto the court was No. 2 Stan Wawrinka, not a champion grass-court player but still the No. 3 player in the world. He lost to the unseeded 35-year-old Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Both had 16 aces. Both had 88 per cent success rates with their first serves. But the Spaniard Lopez – unusually, by the standards of his countrymen, an aggressive customer on the grass – handled Wawrinka’s second serve far better than the Swiss did his. And by the finest of margins, he got through.
Then came No. 1.
For all the British hand-wringing over the last few months about Andy Murray’s form – all of it, months ahead, pre-doom and gloom for The Championships – he played well in Paris. Murray reached the semifinals and it took former French Open champion Wawrinka more than 4 1/2 hours to beat him.
Murray's run of breaking serve in 136 consecutive matches (stretching back to 2015 US Open) comes to an end as he fails to break today.
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) June 20, 2017
The defending champion came to Queen’s Club with some momentum. But less than 24 hours after announcing he would donate his prize money from the tournament to the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy – he went out.
He did not, as expected, play fellow Brit Aljaz Bedene, whom he defeated 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the same tournament a year ago.
Bedene withdrew with a wrist injury Tuesday morning. The lucky loser, Aussie Jordan Thompson, was ranked more than 30 spots below Bedene. But Murray had never faced him. And Thompson came in with a little grass momentum after reaching the final of a Challenger the previous week.
But still … Murray went out 7-6 (4), 6-2 and dealt his Wimbledon title defense preparation a bit of a blow. He hadn’t lost at Queen’s Club since 2014. Thompson played great tennis. But it all went downhill when Murray was up a mini-break in the first set tiebreak.
First, a double fault. Then, one of the worst drop-shot attempts he’ll make all year. Suddenly, he lost both points on his serve. The rest was not pretty to watch.
World No. 1 Andy Murray has lost before the quarterfinals in 6 of his 10 tournaments this year. In 2016, that happened twice in 17 events
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) June 20, 2017
“This tournament has given me great preparation in the past. When I have done well here, Wimbledon has tended to go pretty well, too,” Murray told the media in London. “But, if I play like that, I certainly won’t win Wimbledon. I can play better than that.”
Worst British effort in 34 years
Murray has won at Queen’s Club five times, including three of the last four years.
He was the headmaster of a seriously futile effort by the British contingent this year. All five of them – Murray along with Kyle Edmund, wild cards James Ward and Cameron Norrie and lucky loser Liam Broady – lost first round.
According to the ATP, it was the first time the Brits went winless at Queen’s Club since 1983.
The carnage in Kitzbuhel a year ago was a blip compared to this.
Top seed Dominic Thiem, at No. 9 ranked just one spot higher than he is now but not nearly the player he has become this year, had played every week but three since the Australian Open. He fulfilled a commitment to his home-country event, but lost to his far more experienced countryman Jürgen Melzer in a tough combination of circumstances.
The No. 2 seed was Philipp Kohlschreiber. The No. 3 was Marcel Granollers.
This was in a totally different league.
Terrible Tuesday takes the zip right out of a superb event, which added 2,000 seats to its stadium court this year and boasted a terrific field.
Now? The top half is wide open for No. 5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who does have an in-form Gilles Muller playing the best tennis of his long career ahead of him in the second round.
The bottom half? A Grigor Dimitrov vs. Lopez semi-final would be an attractive grass-court matchup. But it lacks the glamour that the tournament deserves.
(Screenshots from TennisTV)