The 35-year-old, who needed a final-set tie-breaker to oust Argentina’s Pedro Cachin in the previous round on Thursday, put up a good fight against the 22-year-old son of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda on Friday evening, but his level dropped in the final set as he went down 6-4 1-6 6-1 in just under two-and-a-half hours.
Korda earned the first break of the match in game three, despite Murray battling back to deuce from 0-40 down, and the American was playing well, hitting crisp ground-strokes and volleying well at the net. A second break came to make it 5-2 and while Murray did retrieve one of them, Korda held his nerve to take the opening set 6-4.
Murray was clearly disgruntled with how the match has begun and lifted his level right away in the second set, holding his opening service game to love and then showing great fighting spirit to break Korda in the second game despite the American being 40-0 up. This totally changed the momentum of proceedings, with Murray breaking again and hitting two outstanding backhands on his way to winning the set 6-1 and forcing a decider.
Korda needed to press the reset button and he added some extra weight and consistency to his forehand at the start of the third set. He broke Murray to 30 and quickly racked up a 3-0 lead, with Murray becoming exasperated and venting frustration at the umpire. It continued to unravel for Murray thereafter, being broken again – this time from 40-0 up – as Korda tightened his grip and went on to close out the match comfortably, with Murray now moving on to Antwerp next week to play the European Open in the Belgian city
The start time of Murray’s match was pushed back by nearly two hours due to an extraordinary encounter between Carreno Busta and Rinderknech before it, which the Frenchman won 18-16 in an incredible final-set tie-break. Rinderknech managed to fend off nine match points, collapsing to the court in relief after converting one of his own and then dedicating the victory to his grandmother, who passed away five days ago. Carreno Busta, the second seed in Gijon, had won the first set 6-4, before Rinderknech battled back to take the second 6-3 and will next play Korda.
Earlier in the day in Gijon, top seed Andrey Rublev was in excellent shape as he defeated American Tommy Paul 7-5 6-3. The Russian will play former US Open champion Dominic Thiem on Saturday afternoon for a place in the final after the Austrian maintained his good week with a 6-4 6-3 triumph over Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo.
Over in Florence, home favourite Lorenzo Musetti continued to fly the flag for Italy at the Firenze Open with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 over Mackenzie McDonald of the USA. The third seed will either play Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada or American in Brandon Nakashima in the last four, while the other semi-final is between Sweden’s Mikael Ymer and another player from the US, JJ Wolf, after they overcame Roberto Carballes Baena and Alexander Bublik respectively.