Murray stumbles to worrying defeat

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray's preparations for the French Open suffered a setback last night when he was knocked out in the third round of the Madrid Masters. Murray lost 6-4, 6-2 to Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci and now has only one tournament left, in Rome next week, before the year's second Grand Slam tournament begins in 16 days' time.

After his run to the semi-finals of last month's Monte Carlo Masters it was a disappointing performance by Murray, who faded after a promising start and was eventually outplayed. Bellucci went for his shots and returned serve particularly well.

Murray failed to take early chances to break and the match turned when the world No 4 served at 4-5 and 30-30 in the first set. A forehand error gave Bellucci his first break point, which he converted when Murray put a backhand wide.

The Brazilian broke in similar fashion when 3-2 up in the second set, and from then on the world No 36 took command and the match finished with Murray making three successive backhand errors. In today's quarter-finals Bellucci faces Tomas Berdych, who beat Juan Monaco.

If there was an award for the unluckiest man in tennis it would be hard to find a challenger to Juan Martin del Potro. Having had little chance to build on his 2009 US Open triumph after wrist surgery kept him off court for the best part of a year, the 22-year-old Argentine has now had his comeback derailed by a hip problem. Del Potro was due to meet Rafael Nadal in the third round in Madrid but instead flew home for treatment to his latest injury, which will also keep him out of Rome.

Novak Djokovic hit top form to beat Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-2 in just 51 minutes. The Serb has now equalled Ivan Lendl's 1986 sequence of 29 unbeaten matches since the beginning of the season. Roger Federer beat Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-3 and now faces Robin Soderling, who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6, 7-5.

The women's tournament has seen six of the eight top seeds fail to reach the quarter-finals. The latest casualties were the world No 1, Caroline Wozniacki, and Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone.

* Venus Williams, who has not played since the Australian Open because of a hip injury, has entered the Aegon International at Eastbourne in June.

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