Andy Murray crashed out of the French Open this evening with a 6-4 6-7 (3/7) 6-3 6-2 defeat by David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.
Murray had never beaten the wall-like Spaniard in three previous meetings on clay and simply made too many errors to change that statistic in cool and wet conditions at Roland Garros.
There was a glimmer of hope when he took the second set but a rain break seemed to knock the Scot out of his rhythm and when he did move ahead he could not make it count, breaking serve five times in the match and giving it straight back on every occasion.
The world number four looked sharp at the start and twice had the chance to break in the third game but he could not take either, and Ferrer took full advantage in the next game, breaking for 3-1 when Murray again netted a backhand.
The Scot was grimacing a little, perhaps feeling his troublesome back, but he certainly had his opportunities to retrieve the break, four of them in the seventh game that all went begging.
Murray screamed in frustration, but he did at least manage to save a set point on his own serve with a fine forehand.
And that became very important when he brought up two more break points at 5-3, this time the Spaniard sending a forehand long.
He was still not out of the woods, though, and, after Murray clawed his way back from 0-30, Ferrer created another set point, which he took when the fourth seed netted a forehand.
There was no doubt Murray was not moving particularly well, especially when pulled out wide on his forehand, but he made the perfect start to the second set with an immediate break.
Again he could not cement it, though, Ferrer getting a little lucky with a shot that clipped the top of the net on break point.
Moments later it began to rain and there was a brief delay before the match resumed.
The pattern stayed the same, though, as Murray tried in vain to break down the rock-solid sixth seed, whose nickname of the Little Beast is entirely apt.
The Scot's serve got him out of trouble in the sixth game, and with Ferrer serving next he came alive with a series of fine groundstrokes to break once more.
But history repeated itself, with Murray surrendering his own serve immediately for the third time in the match.
He held on for a tie-break and then stepped up his game just at the right time, winning five points in a row from 1-0 down and eventually taking it 7-3.
Murray held serve in the opening game of the third set and then the rain really began to come down, forcing a proper delay - although only for around half an hour.
The break certainly helped Ferrer more than Murray, and at the end of a very long game at 1-1, the Spaniard broke serve for a fifth time in the match when his opponent netted a backhand.
Murray was grumbling to himself but he rediscovered his form and focus to break back for 3-3 with a series of excellent groundstrokes, ending with a thumping forehand winner.
With a certain inevitability, though, once more the 25-year-old could not hold onto his own serve, and in his next service game Ferrer brought up three set points.
Murray saved two with a big forehand and then a good serve, but on the third he blazed a forehand over the baseline to hand Ferrer a two sets to one lead.
It was groundhog day at the start of the fourth set as Murray played a terrific defensive point to break Ferrer only to surrender his serve immediately for the fifth time, this time sending a forehand just wide.
He had two chances to move ahead again but could not take either, and the end looked nigh when he lost a third successive game with another wayward forehand.
Murray was certainly trying hard but he could not find the consistency to match a player of Ferrer's relentless hitting and intensity.
He had two more break points in the seventh game but he curled a forehand wide on the first and had no answer to more ferocious play from his opponent on the second.
Ferrer sensed his moment, and he brought up two match points in the next game. Murray saved one but not the second, and it was the Spaniard who deservedly moved through to his first French Open semi-final, where he will meet Rafael Nadal.Reuse content