WIMBLEDON, England -- Head bowed, Andy Roddick trudged off Centre Court, his purple Wimbledon towel dragging along the turf.
As the three-time runner-up at the All England Club headed for the exit, he passed some kids clamoring for an autograph from their front-row perch. Roddick paused and tossed his blue-framed racket underhand. Thanks to his latest earlier-than-anticipated Grand Slam loss, the American won't be needing it next week.
The eighth-seeded Roddick departed quickly Friday, beaten 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the third round by unseeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Lopez served spectacularly well, hitting 28 aces, and finally got the better of the 2003 U.S. Open champion after losing all seven previous matches they played.
Roddick turns 29 in August, and he was asked whether, as the years go by, one particularly depressing thought creeps into his mind: He might never win Wimbledon.
"Well, sure. You're human. I mean, of course it does," he replied. Then, speaking directly to the reporter, Roddick added: "You know, you may never get your favorite job, either -- no offense to your current employer."
Roddick lost to Roger Federer in the 2004, 2005 and 2009 finals -- 16-14 in the fifth set of that last one -- but only made it as far as the fourth round last year and second round in 2008.
"What do you do? You keep moving forward until you decide to stop," Roddick said. "At this point, I've not decided to stop, so I'll keep moving forward."
He hasn't been past the quarterfinals at any of the past seven major tournaments; he withdrew from the French Open in May because of a right shoulder injury but said he's healthy at the moment.
That, in part, is why Roddick figured he'd make a deep run at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
"He gears a lot of his year for Wimbledon. It's a tough loss," said Roddick's coach, Larry Stefanki. "He's disappointed. Very disappointed."
It didn't help that Lopez was nearly perfect, conjuring up 57 winners and eight unforced errors.
"Unbelievable," Lopez said. "When I came back in the locker room, my coaches told me. I was surprised that I didn't miss anything, almost."
Because of rain, only one other third-round men's match finished by the early evening: No. 17 Richard Gasquet of France beat Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Gasquet next meets Murray, who was erratic at the start and end of the match and dropped the second set against the unseeded Croat.
The fourth-seeded Brit picked up his game in the third set and when he led by a break in the fourth, he felt confident enough to flick a winner between his legs in the seventh game.
He was visibly annoyed when he failed to serve out the match at 5-4 but came through in the tiebreak, winning on his second match point.
Murray showed off his new favorite trick shot midway through the fourth set, when Ljubicic hit a short ball, and Murray hopped in the air, brought his racket behind his back and casually flicked a shot through his legs. The ball floated over the net and landed in for a cross-court winner.
It was nearly identical to a shot Murray hit during his victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Queen's Club grass-court tournament on June 13.
"It's just one of those things that you're just in the right position. I tried it at Queen's and I tried it a couple of times in practice since. I haven't missed one yet. You look like a plonker (idiot) when you do, so I'm glad I made it," Murray said. "It's one of those shots that you don't get a chance to try them very often and, luckily, I've pulled it off a couple times the last few weeks."
He hasn't thought of a name for it yet.
"I've never really seen anyone do it before," he said. "So I don't know."
Walking off court at almost 10 p.m. Friday, Murray found himself in the familiar position of carrying British hopes into the second week of Wimbledon on his own.
"Yeah, I'm used to it," he said. "It's been like that the last few years."
In six appearances since 2005, Murray has only once failed to make the second week. In that time, none of his British compatriots has managed to stay around that long.
All three of the British men who received wild cards this year lost in the first round.
In three second-round men's matches held over from Thursday, 18-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia, the youngest man left, defeated Igor Andreev of Russia 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1; No. 11 Jurgen Melzer of Austria beat Dmitry Tursunov of Russia 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1); and No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain finished off a 6-7 (6), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback victory over 19-year-old Ryan Harrison of the United States.
Harrison credited Roddick with being a mentor.
"He's helped me deal with every situation I've faced, as far as all the new stuff I haven't experienced myself yet," Harrison said. "He's made himself available to ask him any questions, whether or not it's about tennis, life, priorities, whatever. I can ask him and talk to him about anything, which has been a great help to me."
Roddick never got comfortable against the 44th-ranked Lopez, who played his usual classic grass-court style, charging the net whenever possible, a tactic that carried him to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2005 and 2008.
While Lopez is one win away from returning to the quarterfinals, Roddick heads home. He'll have much more time than he wanted to work on his game ahead of the July 8-10 Davis Cup quarterfinals between his U.S. team and Lopez's Spain.
Roddick beat Lopez on grass two weeks ago at the Queen's Club tune-up tournament. But this time, Roddick said, "He played better than I did. He beat me. It's easier for me to walk out of here with that and move forward with that than, let's say, '08, where I lost to (Janko) Tipsarevic, and I felt like I completely choked, or last year, where I just kind of had a million opportunities and kind of gave it away."
Roddick managed to break Lopez once, in the first set. But he only earned one break point the rest of the way, in the opening game of the second set, and Lopez saved it.
"That was about his only opportunity to make a dent," Stefanki said. "He returned as well as he could return when he got his racket on it."
Roddick is the highest-seeded man out of the tournament so far.
Play was suspended for the day shortly after 7 p.m. local time, except on Centre Court where Murray was facing Ljubicic under the sliding roof.
Nadal, who saved two set points on his serve at 6-5 down in games, called for a medical timeout after the tiebreak. He slipped and fell awkwardly behind the baseline, getting up slowly after losing the ninth point of the breaker. Nadal walked off the grounds later after play was suspended for good.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.