Aussies Thompson, Hijikata into Queen’s Club last-eight

Ian Chadband |

Jordan Thompson has made it into the quarter-finals of the Queen’s Club Championships but could take no pleasure from defeating home hero Andy Murray for the second time on one of the Briton’s grasscourt strongholds.

Thompson last beat Murray on the beautiful Queen’s courts back in 2017 when the Scot was Wimbledon champion and world No.1. To this day, it remains the 30-year-old Australian battler’s finest win.

But Wednesday’s triumph was a very different affair. Instead of beating a man at the top of his game, Thompson this time saw off a limping, ailing 37-year-old Murray, who called it off after just five matches, handing Thompson a walkover after just 20 sad-to-behold minutes.

It was, in all likelihood, the last time Murray will play at the famous old London venue where he’s won five titles.

But in the last-eight, Thompson will be joined by fellow Sydneysider Rinky Hijikata, who earned a fine win over Italian Matteo Arnaldi to ensure there will be two Australians in the last-eight of the most prestigious grasscourt tournament outside Wimbledon.

Thompson 🤝 Murray@jordanthommmo2 advances to the QFs as unfortunately Murray retires with injury at 4-1@QueensTennis | #cinchChampionships

— ATP Tour (@atptour) June 19, 2024

That seemed an unlikely outcome after Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur, last year’s beaten finalist, had been knocked out on Tuesday by another Italian, Lorenzo Musetti.

For Thompson, it was a bittersweet moment to see Murray call it a day while struggling from the after-effects of his victory over another Australian, Alexei Popyrin the previous day.

“I could see he had a problem in the warm-up and then his first serve,” said Thompson.

“I thought, ‘hit the ball in and make him run’. I actually learned that from him. I learned a lot of things watching him play, so it’s an honour to share the court with him but it’s just sad that it ended like that.

“Never the way you want to go through, especially with a great champion like Andy,” added Thompson, after ending his own pretty bleak period in which he’d lost five straight matches by reaching his first quarter-final for over two months.

Thompson almost seemed embarrassed as he realised while playing that Murray was in such a bad way.

He prompted a few boos for one drop shot that Murray was never going to be able to chase but, even though winning easily at 4-1, seemed distracted enough by his opponents’ troubles to make a few elementary errors himself.

After a medical timeout for treatment on his lower back, Murray couldn’t continue, with serious question marks now over whether he’ll be able to compete in what shapes as a potential swansong at Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics.

Rinky Hijikata
Rinky Hijikata enjoyed a big win over Matteo Arnaldi as he reached the quarters at Queen’s.

Thompson will next play Taylor Fritz in the last-eight after the American No.1 defeated former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic in a big-hitting clash 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

Hijikata’s 7-6 (7-0) 7-6 (9-7) win over Arnaldi was a delight for the 23-year-old, who’d not won a match since mid-April until his fine run through qualifying at Queen’s.

Having got through to the last-16 only when US star Frances Tiafoe had to pull out in the previous round while suffering an injury following a slip on court, Hijikata got tight with victory approaching, squandering five match points.

But he’ll next play in-form American Sebastian Korda, who was beaten by de Minaur in the final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last week but earned a fine 6-4 3-6 7-5 victory over 2014 Queen’s winner Grigor Dimitrov.