Britain's Andy Murray suffered a shock defeat to Kei Nishikori of Japan in the US Open quarter-finals as his hopes of winning back-to-back grand slams came to an abrupt end at Flushing Meadows.
The gruelling tussle went the distance but second seed Murray eventually succumbed 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in a clash which lasted three hours and 57 minutes and brought a rather ignominious curtain down on the Scot’s golden summer.
Murray was the favourite heading into the clash and boasted a 7-1 head-to-head record against Nishikori but the world No7 recovered his poise after a horror first set to spring a huge surprise.
A rain delay in the second set appeared to derail Murray’s progress, while the Scot cut a frustrated and frazzled figure after a loud noise from the stadium sound system interrupted a break point – he lost the next seven games.
Since the return of Ivan Lendl as his coach, Murray had enjoyed nothing but success; a win at Queen’s Club was followed by a second Wimbledon title and the retention of his Olympic crown. This was the duo’s first set back at a grand slam.
Defeat also scuppered Murray’s hopes of becoming only the fourth man in the Open era to reach all four grand slam finals in the same year, having been defeated by Novak Djokovic in the finales of the Australian and French Open.
Tenth seed Karolina Pliskova, meanwhile, needed just 57 minutes to ruthlessly dispatch 18-year-old Croatian Ana Konjuh and reach the semi-finals of the women’s tournament. Pliskova, of the Czech Republic, strolled into the last four with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Pliskova, who had never made it beyond the third round of a major tournament before. “I am so excited to be in my first semi-final, especially in this tournament. I think I played a very good match.”
There was some joy for the Murray family yesterday after Andy’s older brother Jamie, along with partner Bruno Soares, progressed to the men’s doubles semi-finals by defeating Chris Guccione and Andre Sa 7-6 (11-9), 2-6, 6-3.
“I’m happy to get through,” said Murray. “The first set was an hour and 20 minutes and we dropped our energy after that but came back well in the third and we’re excited to be in the semi-finals.
“It is draining. We played at 11am so it was a bit cooler, but by the time we finished it was blue skies and sunny. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that kills you. We go into tomorrow’s match as slight underdogs but are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), meanwhile, has confirmed it is investigating the first round match between Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky’s and Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia.