Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Murray's title defence goes down the drain

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NEW YORK -- The earliest real signs of trouble for Andy Murray came in the 10th game of his U.S. Open quarter-final. For 22 points stretched over 15 excruciating minutes Thursday, Murray's body language was as poor as his play.

When the 2012 champion pushed a simple forehand into the net, he smacked his palm against his forehead, once, twice, three times. When he left a similarly routine forehand too low, he mocked his footwork by pressing one shoe atop the other. When he sailed a later forehand long, he rolled his eyes and muttered. When he delivered his second double-fault, he swiped the ground with his racket.

And when he rushed yet another forehand on break point No. 6 of that key game -- the ball drifting long to cede a set to his far-less-accomplished opponent, ninth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka -- Murray cracked his racket on the court. Not satisfied, he trudged to his changeover chair and whacked the racket again, mangling the frame.

Trying to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time, and not quite two months removed from his historic Wimbledon championship, Murray bowed out quickly, if not quietly, at Flushing Meadows, losing 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to Wawrinka in a result that was surprising both because of who won and by how much.

"I have had a good run the last couple of years," said the third-seeded Murray, who shook his hands in front of his face and screamed after dropping the second set. "It's a shame I had to play a bad match today."

The first Grand Slam semifinal of Wawrinka's career, in his 35th appearance, will come Saturday against No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 2011 U.S. Open champion. Djokovic overcame a third-set lull and beat 21st-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 on Thursday night to reach the semifinals in New York for the seventh year in a row. It's also the 14th consecutive Grand Slam tournament where Djokovic is in the semifinals, a 31/2-year streak.

The other semifinal is No. 2 Rafael Nadal against No. 8 Richard Gasquet.

Murray's rough afternoon included only 15 winners, 30 fewer than Wawrinka. Murray tapped in second serves as slow as 75 mph, allowing Wawrinka to hit four return winners and easily take control of countless other points. Murray, one of the sport's top returners, never earned a single break point during any of Wawrinka's 14 service games.

"I didn't get into enough return games, which is disappointing for me," said Murray, who had won 30 of his preceding 32 Grand Slam matches. "That's normally something I do pretty well. I always give myself opportunities to break serve, and I didn't today."

Give Wawrinka credit -- something Murray made sure to do.

At age 28, Wawrinka finally made it further at a major tournament than his Swiss Olympic teammate and good friend, Roger Federer, who lost in the fourth round.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 C6

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