Year of the others: Djokovic’s Wimbledon exit gives ‘hope to hopeless’

  • Reuters, London
  • Updated: Jul 05, 2016 11:37 IST
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns to US player Sam Querrey during their men's singles third round match on the sixth day of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon. (AFP Photo)

When Andy Murray’s mother was caught on camera breaking into a wide grin as Novak Djokovic’s demise flashed up on Wimbledon’s Centre Court screen, it was a sentiment shared by many others inside the All England Club grounds.

The look on the face of Judy Murray, who was sitting in the Royal Box as her son battled it out in the third round on Saturday, said it all -- Murray’s chances of winning the title had just sky rocketed.

“As soon as Novak loses, you look at Andy and you look at (Roger) Federer’s eyes light up,” said Australian Nick Kyrgios, who lost to Murray in the fourth round on Monday. “They think that their chances probably doubled.”

Read | Would rather focus on positives than failure: Djokovic on Wimbledon exit

“I think a lot of people in the locker room now believe they can win it. If the stars align and they’re playing well, there’s a lot of people that can go get it.”

Andy Murray celebrates winning his match against Australia's Nick Kyrgios. (Reuters Photo)

It was only a week ago when 128 players began their pursuit of the Wimbledon men’s singles title.

But in reality most of them were resigned to playing a small role in a huge backing choir as it seemed that only one of them had the credentials to stand out as the lead soloist.

On the eve of the championships when Kyrgios was asked who the title favourite was, he fired back: “Probably Djokovic. It’s a silly question. No more questions for you, bro.”

Read | This is not a typo: Twitter on Djokovic’s Wimbledon loss to Sam Querrey

After all, Djokovic had arrived in London as the holder of all four grand slams, triumphed at the All England Club for the last two years and not been defeated on the big stage since losing to Stan Wawrinka in the 2015 Roland Garros final.

But just when it seemed that only one man was capable of hoisting the gilded pineapple-topped Challenge Cup come July 10th, American Sam Querrey produced a knockout punch that, to borrow Andy Roddick’s words, “gave hope to the hopeless”.

US player Sam Querrey celebrates beating Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their men's singles third round match. (AFP Photo)

“It’s the year for all the other ones,” 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic said with a smile on Monday after setting up a quarterfinal with Federer.

“I’m more relieved definitely to see that I’m not playing Novak,” added the Croatian, who could have collided with the Serbian in the semis.

Looking on enviously

Whereas seven days ago players in the top of the men’s draw were cursing their luck for being in the same half as Djokovic, now those in the bottom section are looking on enviously -- as they still have a super-fit Murray to contend with.

Tennis was once ruled by the ‘Big Four’ -- Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Rafael Nadal -- who won all but four of the 41 Grand Slam finals from the 2005 to 2015 French Opens, but over the past year there has only been a ‘Big One’.

Such has been Djokovic’s stranglehold at the top of the men’s game that Murray and Federer were left wondering what more they could have done to knock the Serb off his lofty perch.

Switzerland's Roger Federer prepares to serve to US Steve Johnson during their men's singles fourth round match on the eighth day of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships. (AFP Photo)

Federer finished runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, while Murray played the same support role in the Australian and French Open finals this year.

However, while many were prepared to say just how relieved they were to see the back of the Serb, Federer and Murray chose to hail the run rather than talk up their own chances.

“Everyone expects Novak to win every match. But history suggests that was not going to happen. What happened to Novak is irrelevant to me (at this stage),” said Murray, who has lost five straight Grand Slam matches to the Serb since beating him in the 2013 Wimbledon final.

Federer, who missed the French Open with a back injury, added: “It’s a good time to take a step back and appreciate what an unbelievable run Novak’s had in the last year. Clearly an unbelievable player and he will go down as one of the greatest players in history.”

Read | Wimbledon: For Federer clash, Johnson inspired by Querrey’s Djokovic win

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