WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND—There are some days as a sportswriter when you wish you could find every copy of your last column and make a towering bonfire of them in your backyard. I know the feeling, and I imagine Simon Barnes of the Times of London knew it too on Wednesday afternoon after he watched Andy Murray roll over on the grass against Grigor Dimitrov. Judging by what Barnes had written two days earlier, he didn’t see that one coming.
“I’d be inclined," Barnes wrote in his assessment of the Scot's first week, "to say that Murray has been playing a bit like God."
God fell, hard, to the green earth here on Wednesday, and the press was there with cameras poised and pencils sharpened.
The Sun set a reasonable, reserved, not-at-all hyperbolic tone with its two Murray headlines:
THE KING IS DEAD!
British summer officially ended at 3:29 P.M.
WILL I EVER WIN IT AGAIN?
Andy Murray crashed out of Wimbledon and fears he may never regain his title
It was true, he did sound as if he were quaking with fright afterward.
“I just tried to enjoy the experience,” Murray said. “You never know if you’re going to get that opportunity again.”
The Star chimes in with a few subtle variations on the Sun’s themes:
Deposed Wimbledon champion Andy Murray fears he will never win Wimbledon again after crashing out in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov
LION TURNS INTO PUSSYCAT
Andy Murray’s 360-day reign as King of Wimbledon was brutally ended by Grigor Dimitrov
MURRAY GIVEN A RIGHT ROYAL THUMPING BY DEADLY DIMITROV
The Mirror switches to the other side of the net, to seek Dimitrov’s dispassionate assessment of the situation:
I HAD HIM BEATEN IN THE WARM-UP!
Murray’s performance in front of Wills and Kate was painful to watch but at least the end came quickly
The Mail opts for a couple of suitably complex metaphors, and even lumps Muzzard in with that football team the country has been trying to forget:
Murray gives up his crown without a fight
ANDY’S CROWN IS TORN AWAY
Oh, how the greats of GB sport have fallen
The paper gives us a rundown of the reviews of Murray’s performance. If Muzzard were a play, he’d be closed within the hour.
“Andy Murray was poor; his body language looked poor, and he gave up his game too easy.”—John Lloyd
“He looked flat at the start.”—Jimmy Connors
“I’m amazed he got rid of Lendl.”—John McEnroe
The Telegraph is almost at a loss for words over the whole thing:
MURRAY SHOCKS HIS FANS INTO STUNNED SILENCE
Scot meekly surrenders his title in a flurry of errors
The Guardian has a surprisingly moralistic take on the debacle:
MURRAY EXITS SHOUTING AND CURSING
Andy Murray left a few expletives hanging in the air on Centre Court as Grigor Dimitrov dismissed the defending champion in three ragged sets
One of those expletives, as reported by photographers near the court, came in a mysterious, rage-filled sentence that Murray kept chanting toward his players box: “Five minutes before the f***ing match!”
Something, it seems safe to say, angered Murray before he went on court. He talked later about how his quarterfinal had gone on earlier than normal, in part because the match between Simona Halep and Sabine Lisicki ended so quickly.
Most of the papers, though, prefer another explanation: Trouble in paradise. Kim Sears, Murray’s girlfriend, was shown leaving the grounds, all alone and frowning. The Telegraph fanned the flames higher with this bombshell news: “The couple left in separate Wimbledon cars.”
This version of the present vs. the future has met four times before, and the present—i.e., Djokovic—has won three times. Dimitrov’s only victory came on clay in Madrid last year, a loss that Djokovic quickly and thoroughly avenged a few weeks later in Paris.
Where do we stand now? Has the future arrived, or does the present have a little longer to live? My first instinct is to say that Dimitrov isn’t ready to go any farther, and that a semifinal loss to Djokovic is the logical place for this year’s run to end for him. But I said much the same thing before Dimitrov's quarterfinal, and he played as if he were the dominant, experienced, and composed veteran. Grass suits Dimitrov’s slashing game, but Djokovic is unlikely to play as poorly as Murray did against him. The top seed will bend, as he often does, but I’m not ready to say Dimitrov can make him break. Winner: Djokovic
This version of the present vs. the future has also met four times, and the present—i.e. Federer—has won them all. But three of those matches have been close. Raonic has pushed all of their best-of-three-setters to a decider; two of them, including one on grass in Halle two years ago, have ended in a final tiebreaker. The Canadian’s serve has been effective against Federer, but Federer’s serve has been effective in this tournament. If the match is close, the surroundings may play their part. Raonic says he can ignore the circumstances, but I don't think he's ready to beat Federer in front of this crowd, on this court, at this stage of Wimbledon. Somewhere deep down, the 23-year-old knows there will be more chances; somewhere deep down, the 32-year-old knows there may not be. Winner: Federer
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