Careless Andy Murray lets guard down at Paris Masters as finish line looms

British No 1's shock loss to Jerzy Janowicz ends two-year dominance by world's top four players

If he had not won the US Open two months ago and if the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals were not three days away, this might be a worrying trend. Andy Murray has been regarded as one of the game's best front-runners, but for the third tournament in a row yesterday he lost after being within a point of victory.

Having missed two match points against Milos Raonic in the Tokyo semi-finals and five against Novak Djokovic in the Shanghai final, Murray scorned another before going down 5-7, 7-6, 6-2 to Jerzy Janowicz in the third round of the Paris Masters.

Murray had appeared in control for most of the first two sets, but when he served at 5-4 and 40-30 he wasted a match point by missing a forehand. Thereafter it was almost all downhill. Jerzy Janowicz, the world No 69, is a 6ft 8in giant with a huge serve and the 21-year-old Pole thundered 22 aces on what he later described as "the most unbelievable day in my life".

While Janowicz's joy was evident, Murray's reaction was that of a man who has bigger prizes in mind. The World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena have been the world No 3's main target ever since the US Open and his coach, Ivan Lendl, arrives in London today to begin working with him for the first time since New York.

Murray's defeat ends some remarkable sequences. This is the first Masters Series tournament for six years without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic or Murray in the quarter-finals. Between them the big four have won every one of the 28 major tournaments (Grand Slams, Masters Series, World Tour Finals and Olympics) played since the 2010 Paris Masters, won by Robin Soderling.

Nadal, who has not played since Wimbledon, will miss London because of injury, but for Murray, Federer (who pulled out of Paris to save himself for the Finals) and Djokovic (who lost on Wednesday) the extra time they have to prepare for next week will surely be to their advantage.

"Maybe the guys that go deep here will have confidence from having a good tournament but they may arrive a little bit later and might take a while to get used to the conditions," Murray said.

"I'll definitely need to play a bit better than I did this week if I want to get some wins there."

Murray will be joined at the O2 Arena by Britain's Jonny Marray, who will compete in the doubles with Freddie Nielsen, his partner for their remarkable triumph at Wimbledon this summer. Marray, playing with the Australian Paul Hanley, reached the quarter-finals in Paris yesterday with his best win since Wimbledon, a 6-4, 6-7, 10-5 victory over the Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's top doubles team.

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