There was a time when Andy Murray had to get used to his Grand Slam dreams being dashed by Swiss opposition, but tonight it was Stanislas Wawrinka rather than Roger Federer who ended the Scot’s defence of his US Open title. The Swiss No 2, who has long lived in the shadow of his compatriot, finished Murray’s run here with a crushing 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory in a depressingly one-sided quarter-final.
While 28-year-old Wawrinka is enjoying the best year of his career, there had could be no escaping the fact that this was a desperately disappointing performance by Murray. The world No 3, who has rarely looked at his best over the last fortnight, gave an uncharacteristically lacklustre display. His game lacked its usual zip, he made far too many errors and he looked ill at ease from the moment he let the first set slip away.
Murray had reached the final of his last four Grand Slam tournaments and this was his earliest exit from one of the majors since he lost at the same stage of last year’s French Open. After his year of glory, this was a reminder of the days when Murray fell all too regularly just after entering the finishing straight.
The match bore many similarities to Murray’s defeat to Wawrinka in the third round here three years ago, which was the last time the Scot was knocked out of a Grand Slam tournament before the quarter-finals. Just as in 2010, he looked miserable for much of the match and appeared to have little idea how to turn his fortunes around.
Murray said afterwards that he would have preferred to have played a better match but did not think he had had a bad tournament. “I thought he played great,” Murray said, giving credit to Wawrinka. “I didn’t create a break point chance.”
Wawrinka, who is through to his first Grand Slam semi-final, will next take on the winner of tonight’s concluding quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and Mikhail Youzhny. Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet will contest tomorrow’s other semi-final.
Murray has had to adjust to different conditions in every round and this was no exception. After playing in a chilly evening wind against Denis Istomin, the Scot and his opponent had to contend with the dazzling sunshine and heat in Arthur Ashe Stadium, though at least the draining humidity of previous days had gone. Ice towels and shade were the priority during changeovers.
In most of his matches here Murray has started slowly, though he did not appear to be in any sort of trouble until the final game of the first set. Both men had been hitting the ball cleanly if conservatively in the first nine games, during which there had been no break point points, but everything changed when Murray served at 4-5.
A 15-minute game saw Wawrinka fail to take his first five break points but on the sixth Murray hit a forehand long. Furious with himself, Murray smashed his racket on the court surface and gave it another bashing when he returned to his chair. The Scot is not normally a racket abuser, but his frustration at seeing 57 minutes’ hard work undone was clear.
Murray saved a break point with an ace in the second game of the second set, but when he served at 2-3 he was broken to love following a forehand error, two netted backhands and a Wawrinka backhand winner down the line after the Scot had been caught off balance. Wawrinka had won 11 points in a row to take a 5-2 lead before Murray briefly stopped the rot, but the Swiss went on to serve out for the set, at the end of which the world No 3 screamed out in anguish.
Wawrinka broke again in the third game of the third set. From deuce Murray put an easy forehand in the net and double-faulted. When he served at 2-4 the Scot was broken again, a forehead winner sealing Wawrinka’s fourth break of the contest.
Murray got to 0-30 when Wawrinka served for the match, but the world No 10 went on to create match point with a smash and converted it when his opponent put a forehand return in the net. After two hours and 15 minutes it was a lame end to Murray’s participation in what has always been one of his favourite tournaments.