Murray goes out with a whimper at Queen's
After 19 consecutive victories on grass, Andy Murray's winning streak came to a shock end as the defence of his Queen's title went out with a whimper in a third-round defeat to Radek Stepanek.
Murray had not tasted defeat on the surface since losing to Roger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final, a run that encompassed a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics and his Queen's-Wimbledon double last year.
With new coach Amelie Mauresmo watching on, Murray looked out-of-sorts throughout and will have to wait to become the 10th active player to reach the landmark of 450 tour-level wins, after going down 7-6(10) 6-2 in six minutes shy of two hours.
Murray, who had been seeking a record-equalling fourth Queen's title, was guilty of taking too casual an approach. He won just 64 percent of points behind his first serve, having won 92 percent in his victory over Paul Henri-Mathieu on Wednesday, and took just four points off Stepanek's first serve in the world No.42's 10 service games.
With the first set going to a tiebreaker, Murray let a 6-2 lead slip and wasted eight set points before Stepanek wrapped it up 12-10.
Stepanek chiseled out a break immediately in the second set, and found another when a net cord went his way on break point for 5-2.
He then served out the match for just his second win in seven career meetings with Murray.
"I know that it's a tough task. I will come out and perform as best I can," Stepanek had said after his second-round win over Bernard Tomic on Wednesday.
That he did. The last time these two met on grass, an 18-year-old Murray dispatched a 25-year-old Stepanek 6-4 6-4 6-4 at Wimbledon in 2005, as he continued to announce himself to the world.
It was a completely different story this time, with Murray looking a far cry from the two-time grand slam winner he has since become.
Murray broke at the first opportunity of the match, an exquisitely disguised backhand passing winner on the run doing for Stepanek, who was sent the wrong way.
But a double fault from Murray gave Stepanek the chance to break back and he pounced to level, sending the Scot scampering from left to right before picking his spot.
Murray then went 0-30 down on his serve but recovered to level at 3-3 with a cross-court winner that just evaded Stepanek's reach and found the line.
The Scot was shaking his head as his uneven start continued on his next service game, having to save another break point and bringing up his second double fault of the match.
He eventually put the game away after nearly 10 minutes but Stepanek held with Murray now serving to stay in the set.
Murray then saved a set point before forcing the tiebreaker, but failed to put away Stepanek on eight occasions with the Czech winning it 12-10.
Stepanek then brought up three break points at the start of the second set and Murray could only save two, going long on what looked to be a simple forehand.
Murray squandered another break point with Stepanek taking a two-game advantage, though Murray held to love to trail 2-1 in the second.
The Wimbledon champion kept going, but Stepanek brought up another break point before a net-cord bounce went his way to see him serve for the match.
Stepanek managed to keep his cool, sending Murray packing form Queen's Club far earlier than he, or anyone watching, would have predicted.
Nick Atkin is an assistant editor at ESPN. You can follow him on Twitter @NickAtkinESPN