Twelve months ago Andy Murray headed for Wimbledon having just won his fourth tournament of the season after becoming the first Briton for 71 years to win the title here.
Next week he will go to the All England Club still looking for his first victory of 2010 after his third-round exit from the Aegon Championships added to a lengthening tale of woe since his run to the final of the Australian Open at the start of the year.
Resuming yesterday at 3-3 in the final set against Mardy Fish, the match having been called off because of bad light the evening before, the Scot looked comfortable enough until he played a miserable tie-break. Murray lost it 7-2 without winning a point on his own serve as Fish, the world No 90, completed a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 victory. The American went on to beat Michael Llodra 6-4, 6-4 and will meet Spain's Feliciano Lopez in today's semi-finals.
The fact that Murray was in good company – Rafael Nadal completed the departure of the top six seeds when he followed him through the exit door by losing to Lopez – will be of little consolation. "I didn't play particularly well yesterday and today I played two or three bad shots and lost the match," Murray said. The world No 4 has not reached a semi-final since the Australian Open and his lack of matches is such that he might make an appearance at one of next week's pre-Wimbledon exhibition events. Murray has played only 19 matches since Melbourne, exactly half the number he played over the same period last year.
Murray said he would "like to feel better" going into Wimbledon but would still be aiming to win the tournament. "I haven't been playing my best lately, but my game is there," he said. "I just need to make sure I find it in time for Wimbledon. That's where it's important for me to play my best tennis."
He added: "I would like to have played a couple more matches, but I've gone into Wimbledon in previous years and played well having not played that many matches."
Murray did not offer the overnight delay or the weather as an excuse, though he said the conditions had been "a bit vicious" on Thursday. The Scot suggested that the use of light meters might be a fairer method of deciding whether matches should continue.
He also complained about drug-testing procedures after revealing that he had had to stay at Queen's for two and a half hours one evening earlier this week. He said that drugs-testers had not asked him to provide a urine sample until after he had used the bathroom following a match. The tester then said his first sample was not hydrated enough.
"I could have been sitting at home for two and a half hours rather than in a room with someone I've never met before," Murray said.
Nadal's 7-6, 6-4 loss to Lopez was his first quarter-final defeat since the Australian Open and ended a run of 24 successive victories. The world No 1 said the hamstring injury he had suffered the night before had not been a problem. He was happy with his grass-court game and said he would enjoy the weekend back home in the Majorcan sunshine, playing golf and spending time with family and friends. His rackets will stay in his kit bag until next week.
Maria Sharapova reached the semi-finals of the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston by winning two matches in the day. The former world No 1, who now meets the American qualifier Alison Riske, completed a rain-delayed 6-0, 6-3 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands before overcoming Sesil Karatantcheva 6-2, 6-4 in the quarter-finals.