The Scot was beaten 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 by David Ferrer in the last 16 of the Shanghai Masters yesterday, a defeat which sees the Spaniard jump above him to ninth place in the qualifying race.
Only the top eight players in the standings at the end of this month will reach the O2 Arena finals event.
Fresh from winning the tournament in Shenzhen and reaching the semi-finals of the China Open in Beijing last week, Murray made a strong start against the world No 5.
The 27-year-old broke Ferrer in his first service game and dominated the opening set in which he only dropped four points on his own serve.
But Ferrer hit back straight away in the second as he started to attack Murray more and immediately earned his first break, which he built on to take the set comfortably.
As Murray’s game began to unravel Ferrer pressed home his advantage, breaking twice more in the decider while Murray failed to fashion a single break point opportunity.
Murray, who joined world No 2 Rafa Nadal, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in exiting the tournament before the quarter-final stage, was generous in his praise for Ferrer. “He barely missed a ball for about a set and a half,” said Murray. “I couldn’t find a way around him. He played just great tennis, especially the last set and a half.
“At the beginning of the second set I still had a couple of opportunities there right at the beginning. But after that, I’ve got to give it to him, he played fantastically well and deserved to win.”
Murray said he had not made up his mind yet about where he would compete next as he bids to qualify for the ATP Finals for the seventh successive year.
“We’ll see over the next few days where I decide to go. Hopefully I can play well the last couple of tournaments, try and make a push for London,” he added.
Murray still has three weeks of tournaments including the Paris Masters in which to muscle into the top eight.
Ferrer now faces world No 1 and double defending Shanghai champion Novak Djokovic, who was made to fight for his place in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic needed two hours and seven minutes to see off Kazakhstan’s world No 84 Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
The Serbian edged a tight first set before Kukushkin hit back with an early break in the second – a lead he managed to sustain before levelling the match on his third set-point chance.
But Djokovic stepped up in the last and a solitary break in the fifth game of the set proved decisive.
Third seed Roger Federer advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Spain’s world No 18 Roberto Bautista Agut and will next face French veteran Julien Benneteau, who saw off American Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4.
Sixth seed Tomas Berdych remained on track for a place in London by beating Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-4, while there were also victories for Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez.
Defending champion Samantha Stosur reached the quarter-finals of the Japan Open in Osaka when fellow Australian Jarmila Gajdosova was forced to retire midway through their second-round clash. Gajdosova twisted her ankle midway through a first set tie-break and lasted just one more game before admitting defeat, with the score at 7-6 (7/4), 1-0 in Stosur’s favour.
Croatian world No 113 Ana Konjuh pulled off an upset 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over American fifth seed Coco Vandeweghe, wrapping up victory in four minutes short of two hours.
There were also wins for
Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas, who hammered Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 6-0, 6-1 in 53 minutes, and eighth seed Lauren Davis, who beat home qualifier Shuko Aoyama 6-1, 6-1.