Andy Murray’s Wimbledon warm-up could hardly have gone worse as the British No. 1 crashed out of the Aegon Championships first round to lucky loser Jordan Thompson.
Thompson was called up to replace the injured Aljaz Bedene just a few hours earlier on Tuesday but the world No. 90 played the match of his life to beat Murray 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
Murray, a record five-time champion at Queen’s, must now recover confidence and rhythm if he is to avoid a similarly disappointing defence of his Wimbledon crown in two weeks’ time. Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka both made losing starts to their grass-court seasons on Tuesday by crashing out in the Aegon Championships first round.
This was the world No. 1’s ninth defeat already in 2017 and sixth against an opponent ranked outside the top 20.
It is his second-worst result by ranking since he lost to world No. 92 Guillermo Garcia Lopez at Indian Wells in March 2012.
There were signs of a return to form when Murray reached the semifinals at the French Open earlier this month but this represents a significant step back, his serve again unreliable and forehand particularly wayward.
The Scot reportedly pledged to donate his prize money from this event to victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster and that figure for losing in the first round will be around £12,000.
Thompson had lost in the second round of qualifying on Sunday to Frenchman Jeremy Chardy but he was thrust back into the main draw after Bedene, the British No. 4, pulled out with a wrist problem on Tuesday morning.
For all Murray’s inadequacies, the Australian 23-year-old played brilliantly, dictating the points with his rasping forehand and showing an aggressive approach that his more established opponent was simply unable to match.
Thompson had beaten David Ferrer in Brisbane in January and world No. 15 Jack Sock in the Davis Cup in April, but this was his first Tour win against a player in the top 20 and by the far the biggest of his career.
He set the tone early on when Murray had to save two break points in his opening service game and, while the Briton changed his racket, he could never really turn the tide.
In the first-set tie-break, Murray double-faulted to hand back a mini-break before a missed volley helped Thompson move 6-3 clear.
Murray saved one set point but not the next as another backhand volley dropped into the bottom of the net and the underdog took the frame.
The second set grew even worse for Murray, whose backhand lob – usually a trademark shot – dropped long to give Thompson the break and a 3-2 lead. The two-time Wimbledon champion has proven himself one of the greatest scrappers but even he could not escape this time as a forehand blown wide conceded a second break, and Thompson duly served out after an hour and 43 minutes.