LONDON (Reuters) - Big-hitting American John Isner paid tribute to Andy Murray after sending the two times champion crashing out of Wimbledon 6-4 7-6(4) 6-7(3) 6-4 with a barrage of booming serves and aces in a second round clash on Wednesday.
While 37-year-old Isner strode closer to Ivo Karlovic's aces record of 13,728 on the ATP Tour, Murray made his earliest exit despite battling back from the brink by winning a third set tiebreak.
Murray had never previously lost to the American in eight meetings and cheers of 'Let's go Andy, let's go' echoed around Centre Court before the roof came out and the hope faded along with the evening light.
"I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray, I might have just been a little better than him today," said the 20th seed after the Scot had left the cheering court, waving as he went.
"It was an incredible honour to play him on this court in front of this crowd. At the age I'm at now, I need to relish these moments. This was one of the biggest wins of my career," he added.
"To play as well as I did against one of our greatest players ever was a huge accomplishment for me. He's a massive inspiration to each one of us in the locker room and we are so lucky to still have him around."
Isner broke Murray in the third game of the first set and then held serve under heavy pressure in the next when the Scot, swooping in with backhand passes, had two chances to break straight back.
The towering American made the most of his crushing serve, firing in five aces on his way to taking the set 6-4, while Murray's delivery was more erratic but also packed a notable punch.
Murray was in a deeper hole after losing the second set with number 20 seed Isner showing no let-up in his implacable first serve and dishing out another nine aces.
The home favourite then found himself serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the third set, overcoming that hurdle only for Isner to hold serve and pile on the pressure into the second tiebreak.
The fourth set went with serve before Isner again broke to go 3-2 up and needing only to then hold and serve out for victory.
He hit his 35th ace of the match for 30-0, followed it up with number 36 for three match points and needed just one, a volley, to seal the deal.
While the story was dominated by Isner's serving prowess, he also produced some killer drop shots and returns to disarm his opponent.
Asked how he had withstood the pressure, Isner was engagingly honest.
"I served," he said. "That's really all it came down to. I guess I didn't give him many opportunities to spin his web and get me tangled up in it.
"I had an incredible serving day and I needed every single bit of it to beat him."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)