Andy Murray was left to rue a missed opportunity after being knocked out of the Western & Southern Open in straight sets by Roger Federer.
Having lost the first set, Murray responded by claiming a double break in the second, but Federer fired back and won six of the final seven games to seal an impressive 6-3, 7-5 quarter-final victory and even up their head-to-head record at 11 wins apiece.
The Scot had been hoping to make an impression in Cincinnati with the US Open just around the corner, but it is Federer who looks imperious heading into Flushing Meadows in a little more than a week’s time.
Murray expressed frustration at his inconsistency. “There’s no excuse for that. I’ve played enough matches now for that not to be the case,” he said. “When I was 18 then maybe, but I’m 27 years old now and I’ve played this tournament nine times. It can happen, but it’s the way that it happened which isn’t good enough.
“The inconsistency is the most disappointing thing. It’s fine to have periods like that when you’re young and first coming on the tour, but one or two games max should be when you let your level drop and you need to be able to find it again. I didn’t do that.
“I started the match off pretty slow tonight. [Federer] came out quick. Then I had a couple of break points in back-to-back games to get into it in the first set. I didn’t get either of them.
“Then obviously [I] was well up in the second and blew it. It’s a shame.”
Federer, who won the last meeting between the pair at the Australian Open earlier this year, made a barnstorming start although Murray soaked up the pressure by saving six break points in his opening two service games. However, from 30-0 up at 2-2, Murray contrived to lose his serve with a forehand wide, handing Federer a deserved break for his persistence at the seventh opportunity.
The Swiss was uncharacteristically sloppy immediately afterwards but managed to stave off a couple of break points and ruthlessly went on to break a listless Murray once more to close out the set 6-3.
Federer started sluggishly in the second set, though, and a couple of errors opened the door for Murray, whose forehand winner gave him three break points before he finally penetrated the 33-year-old’s serve at the third attempt. Another break followed in the fifth game as Federer tamely sent a backhand into the net to give Murray a 4-1 lead.
Any thoughts Murray may have had of taking the match to a decider left as Federer got one of the breaks back and the Scot’s serve was mercilessly exposed once again as a double fault levelled things up at 4-4.
Federer made it four games on the trot by holding serve although Murray recovered from the blip to halt his opponent’s surge.
However Federer was clinical and showed his experience, setting up match point with a daring drop shot which allowed him a backhand winner.
Murray, whose first serve was at a lowly 48 per cent, then sent a forehand return into the net to hand Federer victory and a semi-final clash with Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic. Raonic breezed past 15th seed Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-1, 6-0 in a quarter-final mis-match.
Frenchman Julien Benneteau will meet Spain’s David Ferrer in the other semi. Ferrer outlasted fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 a day after 16th seed Robredo stunned world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
Women’s world No.1 Serena Williams is into the last four after crushing Serbian Jelena Jankovic. She will now face Dane Caroline Wozniacki.The other semi-final will match Russian Maria Sharapova against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia.