• Associated Press

Andy Murray Exits Wimbledon with Uncertainty after a 5-set, 2-day Loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas

AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
Britain’s Andy Murray leaves the court after losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in a men’s singles match on day five of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Friday, July 7, 2023.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Andy Murray didn’t know.

As he was asked to dissect his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round of Wimbledon — a rollicking five-setter that lasted more than 4 1/2 hours spread over two days before a packed Centre Court filled with thousands of his closest and loudest friends — Murray started answers to question after question at his news conference Friday with some variation of that theme.

It was, likely, a verbal crutch, something used to gather his thoughts before offering a more complete response. It also embodied the uncertainty that seems to surround a former No. 1 player who owns three Grand Slam titles, two at the All England Club, but also is now 36 and with an artificial hip after two operations.

Was it harder to accept this 7-6 (3), 6-7 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 defeat, given both how close it was and all he’s been through? “I don’t know, to be honest,” Murray’s reply began.

Did the match change because it was suspended Thursday at 10:40 p.m., right after he’d taken a two-sets-to-one lead, because rules prevent play after 11 p.m.? “I don’t know, to be honest.”

How frustrating was it that the contest was put on hold for nearly 18 hours? “Well, you never know what would have happened.”

Does the player ahead in that circumstance want to keep playing, while the player trailing prefers to stop? “I don’t know.”

Will he return to Wimbledon next year? “I don’t know.”

“I’m obviously very disappointed just now. You never know how many opportunities you’re going to get to play here,” Murray said. “The defeats, maybe feel a bit tougher. But, to be honest, every year that Wimbledon’s not gone how I would like, it’s been hard.”

This was his second consecutive exit in the second round at the site of three of his greatest triumphs: the 2012 Olympic gold medal and the 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon championships. His trophy a decade ago was the first for a British man at the All England Club in singles in 77 years.

Murray has not been past the third round at any major since getting to the 2017 quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

“I mean, ultimately this was an opportunity for me. I had a good chance of having a proper run for the first time in a long time at a Slam. I didn’t take it,” he said, and bit on the collar of his white T-shirt.

On the point before action was halted Thursday, Murray slipped and fell at the baseline. He called it “jarring” and said he felt some “initial pain and discomfort,” but would not characterize it as an injury and said he was OK when action resumed Friday.

“It’s never easy against Andy. I know everyone loves him here,” said the No. 5-seeded Tsitsipas, a two-time runner-up at majors, including at the Australian Open in January.

All in all, Friday was rough for the local fans: The other two British men left in the bracket, No. 12 Cam Norrie and wild-card entry Liam Broady, were sent home, too. Norrie was defeated by Chris Eubanks of the United States 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3), and Broady lost to No. 26 Denis Shapovalov of Canada 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 7-5.

At night, Novak Djokovic moved into the fourth round as he pursues some more significant numbers — a fifth consecutive title at Wimbledon; an eighth overall there; a 24th from all majors — by making quick work of Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (5). Djokovic trailed 5-3 in the closing tiebreaker before reeling off the last four points.

No. 7 Andrey Rublev and No. 8 Jannik Sinner also both got to the fourth round, while No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Daniil Medvedev reached the third. The No. 1 woman, Iga Swiatek, made her way into the fourth round — she’s never been further at the All England Club — as did No. 4 Jessica Pegula; No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, two-time champion Petra Kvitova and 2022 runner-up Ons Jabeur moved into the third round. But No. 5 Caroline Garcia was a 7-6 (0), 4-6, 7-5 loser against No. 32 Marie Bouzkova.

Because it was so late by the time Murray and Tsitsipas took the court Thursday, the retractable roof was closed. It was open Friday afternoon: After so much rain earlier in the week, the pale blue sky was unencumbered by clouds, and some folks sitting on the side of the stadium blanketed by sun flapped fans with the temperature at 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

Tsitsipas drew hearty boos when he disputed a ruling in Friday’s second game, but he never seemed rattled during points. He took the last four points of the fourth-set tiebreaker Friday — just as he did in the first-set tiebreaker Thursday — then broke early in the fifth to lead 2-1 and was on his way.

“He’s someone who will make it a marathon, regardless of whether you want it or not,” said Tsitsipas, whose girlfriend and mixed doubles partner, Paula Badosa, watched from his guest box after she stopped playing during her match earlier Friday because of a bad back. “I had to work extra hard today to get that victory. My legs are sore right now. He made me run left and right, up and down.”

Each player only broke the other once. Murray’s ability to return is one of his many elite skills, and he was upset at himself for not managing to do more damage to the serves coming off the racket of Tsitsipas.

One pivotal moment came with Tsitsipas serving at 4-all, 15-30 in the fourth set. Murray hit a short, sharply angled backhand return that was called out by a line judge and chair umpire Aurélie Tourte; a TV graphic replay showed the ball actually clipped the chalk and should have counted.

“It was right underneath the umpire’s nose,” Murray said.

He’ll probably think about that one some more. He’s also likely to think about what else went wrong against Tsitsipas.

Murray spoke before the tournament about having an idea how much longer he will stay on tour.

“I don’t plan to stop right now. But this one will take a little while to get over,” he said Friday. “Hopefully find the motivation again to keep training, keep pushing, try and keep getting better.”

In other words, he doesn’t know precisely what the future holds.