Queen’s Club’s capacity to throw up tales of the unexpected surfaced once more as top seeds and favoured sons fell away on day four of the championships.
Friday’s quarter-finals will feature only four of the eight seeded to meet and it was a close run thing for the number one, new sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-year-old needed two tie breaks to get past the experienced Jeremy Chardy of France, who claimed the first set and at one stage was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set.
Tsitsipas, a semi-finalist in the Aussie Open this year, has quickly been identified as a star in the making, capable of breaking the top-four hegemony and winning Slams, but he had to dig deep to get past his 32-year-old adversary.
His weariness at the end of match – which he freely admitted to in a post-match interview with TV presenter John Inverdale – was understandable given he had started the day still needed to put in half an hour’s work to get past British number one Kyle Edmund.
That match had been held up by the rain on Wednesday, with the score at 3-3 in the second set. It finished 7-5 for a straight sets elimination for Edmund.
Tsitsipas’ close shave was in keeping with the trend for the fancied names to come a cropper. Overnight, Juan Martin Del Potro, the number three seed from Argentina, had to withdraw because of a sore right knee and in the first match of the day on Centre Court, defending champion Marin Cilic, seeded five, had no answer to the sweet ground strokes of another Argentinian, the impressive Diego Schwartzman – who prevailed 6-4, 6-4.
Next to go was seventh seed Stan Wawrinka, who contrived to throw away the advantage after winning the first set against 37-year-old Nicolas Mahut. But the Frenchman, always the fighter, stormed back to take the match 7-2 in the decisive third-set tie-break.
Number two seed Kevin Anderson – a former Wimbledon finalists – caught the bug and succumbed to Gilles Simon out on Court One, but one young man who was given a top eight ranking lived up to the billing, managing not one but two victories in the day.
They were not ordinary ones either for rising Canadian star Felix Auger Aliassime. First, the 18-year-old despatched the 2014 Queen’s winner Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets, and returned to court at 5pm to pit his wits against the maverick Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who would not be Kyrgios without a few tantrums in his day.
The Australian, who had had a spat with a line judge earlier in the day in his first round match, picked up a warning for hitting a ball out of court in frustration at a line call, but took the first set on a tie break.
Auger Aliassime has a cool head on those youthful shoulders, however, and stayed calm amid the histrionics to take the second set on a tie-break before wrapping up proceedings, 7-5 in the third set. His clash with Tsitsipas on Friday will be the pick of the quarter-final encounters.
Mahut and Simon meet in an all-French affair and Feliciano Lopez, profiting from Del Potro’s withdrawal, will take on Milos Raonic, the second Canadian in the last eight.
Schwartzman will be up against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who overcame Aussie Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille in his match in the humble confines of Court Two.
The day ended – and will no doubt be headlined in the Friday papers – by the triumphant return after injury of five-times Queen’s singles winner Andy Murray.
On the verge of quitting after breaking down in painful tears at the end of the Aussie open in January, hip surgery has offered him a pathway back to competition and he made a winning comeback alongside his pal Lopez in the doubles – a match that began at 7pm.
They overcame number one seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah from Colombia 7-6, 6-3 – rewarding all the Andy-watchers who has waited patiently to see the Scot back in action.
They will be hoping it proves to be the first step towards making his mark in the singles again.