Andy Murray was at the centre of a rules controversy at Wimbledon on Wednesday when a ball boy nearly cost him on set point.
Murray was up 6-3 in the third-set tiebreak against John Isner when the big-hitting American hit a backhand return that looked destined to go out.
Murray began celebrating before the ball even landed and jogged to his court-side chair as the home crowd rose to its feet to cheer on the Scottish former champion.
But what Murray might not have seen was that a ball boy actually caught the ball out of the air before it hit the ground.
There was no doubt that the ball would have been out, but under tennis rules the point should have been called a 'let' and the point replayed.
Inexplicably, the chair umpire awarded the point and ultimately the set to Murray, while Isner was happy to concede it as well.
The International Tennis Federation rules state: "If the ball in play touches a permanent fixture before it hits the ground, the player who hit the ball loses the point".
But given that a ball boy is not considered a "permanent fixture", most pundits said the point should have been replayed.
“I think they should replay that final point because the ball never bounced," BBC commentator Andrew Castle said.
"The ball boy caught the ball, took a very good catch, but..."
Co-commentator Tim Henman added: “In normal circumstances the ball should have hit the ground but we all knew it was going wide.”
While Isner didn't take issue with the rules breach, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the score was a little closer at the time.
Great catch mind you 👌🏻
— Matt Roberts (@matt77roberts) June 29, 2022
Brilliant from Murray!
That ball boy was lucky lol the ball should have bounced.
— Dean (@deanomac55) June 29, 2022
3rd Set (set point), Andy Murray didn't win this Set Point against John Isner.
The Ball Boy interfered with play (caught ball in the air, should have touched ground according to the rule...)
Might cost Isner the match in the end...🤞#SW19 pic.twitter.com/hMjqbZySiA
— John Enyinna Okorie (@DukeofEmirates) June 29, 2022
Murray’s paid that ball boy off
— Andy barber (@Andyb1994) June 29, 2022
Get in!! Murray takes the 3rd set. 2-1. Momentum swing?? Isner form dipped a bit in tie-breaker with some unforced mistakes. Love how passionate Murray is. Strange final point with the ball boy catching the ball before it bounced! Even though it was out #Wimbledon #AndyMurray
— Andrew Yee (@AndrewYee2) June 29, 2022
— Paul (@Masterfezza) June 29, 2022
In the Murray match, Isner hit ball high (and wide in the end) but ball boy caught it before bounced in tram lines! Umpire gave set to Murray anyway
— Nik (@nikstorey_) June 29, 2022
Andy Murray suffers earliest exit at Wimbledon ever
Murray finally succumbed to Isner's immense serving power under the centre court roof, going down 6-4 7-6 (4) 6-7 (3) 6-4 after being buried by an avalanche of 36 aces.
Isner said he might have produced his greatest performance at SW19 to spoil the 'home favourite with metal hip wins Wimbledon' storyline after nearly three-and-a-half hours.
"It is no secret I am not a better player than Andy Murray - I may have just been a little better than him today. It was an incredible honour to play him," said Isner, who finally beat him at the ninth attempt.
"I need to relish these moments, this was one of the biggest wins of my career. To play as well as I did against one of the greatest players ever is a huge accomplishment for me.
"He is a massive inspiration for us in the locker room and we are lucky to still have him around. I had an incredible serving day - and I needed every bit of it to beat him."
Isner even put the win ahead of his epic 11-hour, five-set win over Nicolas Mahut in 2010.
The loss marked Murray's earliest exit at Wimbledon ever, which was previously the third round.
Now ranked World No.52, the two-time Wimbledon champion failed to break Isner's serve once.
"He didn't give me lots of chances," said former World No.1 Murray.
"My game was in a good place. I felt good on the court, just couldn't get the win."
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