American Sam Querrey held his nerve to topple champion Novak Djokovic in the third round of Wimbledon. Querrey led overnight and held off a Djokovic comeback to condemn the Serb to a first loss in 31 Grand Slam matches.
Stung by the surprise 2-0 lead Querrey claimed before the rain came on Friday, the world number one came out firing on Saturday, taking the third set 6-3 before another rain delay briefly forced the players off again. The break didn't deter Djokovic, who sought to drive home his new-found momentum early in the fourth set.
But the big-serving American, seeded 28, wouldn't allow his opponent to dictate terms, forcing a series of break points throughout the fourth set. With each missed opportunity, Querrey looked less and less likely to beat the man renowned for his strength of character. And when the rain came again with Djokovic about to serve to stay in the tournament at 5-6, many expected normal service to be resumed.
Djokovic held serve after the resumption, sending the fourth set to another tie break. Although Djokovic took an early lead, Querrey surged back, finally forcing Djokovic to squirt a backhand into the tramlines to hand the American a stunning 3-1 success (7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6) and book him a fourth round date with unseeded Frenchman Nicholas Mahut.
"It's incredible, especially to do it here at Wimbledon," Querrey, who leaped in the air and pumped his fist after sealing victory, told the BBC in a courtside interview.
"I'm so ecstatic right now and so happy," added the 28-year-old California native.
Djokovic's defeat ended his 30-match winning streak at grand slams and dashed his hopes of becoming the first man to hold all four majors in a calendar year since Australian Rod Laver in 1969.
It was the first time he has fallen before the quarterfinals at a slam since 2009, when he was beaten in the third round by Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Djokovic, chasing a fourth title at the All England Club, was gracious in defeat and suggested he had not been fully fit.
"Congratulations to Sam he played a terrific match," Djokovic told the BBC. "He serves very well and that part of his game was brutal today. He just overpowered me," said the 29-year-old.
Asked if he was 100-percent healthy, Djokovic added: "Not really. But you know, it's not the place and time to talk about it. Again, the opponent was playing at a very high level and he deserved to win."
While tennis fans were still digesting the shock of Djokovic’s defeat, second seed Andy Murray moved smoothly into the fourth round with a routine 6-3 7-5 6-2 win over unseeded Australian John Millman.
Briton Murray, now a big favorite to secure a second Wimbledon crown following his triumph in 2013, next plays 15th-seeded Australian Nick Kyrgios or 22nd seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain.
Promising German teenager Alexander Zverev set up a third-round clash against 10th-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych but needed five sets to see off Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny.
In the women’s draw, another former champion was ejected when 10th seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic was upset 7-5 7-6 by unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the fourth seed, made the fourth round when she overcame unseeded compatriot Carina Witthöft.