Second-ranked Andy Murray was knocked out of the U.S. Open by Marin Cilic of Croatia in a lopsided 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 fourth-round loss on Tuesday.
Cilic overcame two set points in the first set, then pounded Murray over the last two to reach his first career Grand Slam quarterfinals. Murray, who lost to Roger Federer in the final at Flushing Meadows last year, will finish 2009 without making a major final.
The match ended in the late afternoon in New York, and just before newspaper deadlines back in England, where the sports sections follow Murray’s every move. Certainly, those headlines won’t be nice on Wednesday morning.
“Today, I could’ve been better in pretty much every part of my game, whether it was mental, forehand, backhand, return,” said Murray, who conceded that, yes, this was the most disappointing loss of his career.
And now Murray will slide back to No. 3 or No. 4 in the rankings, behind Rafael Nadal, who will move up by virtue of beating No. 13 Gael Monfils of France 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in Tuesday night’s last match to get to the quarterfinals.
Nadal-Monfils featured two men often cited as the best athletes on tour, and it was a spirited contest early, filled with long points, terrific retrieving, powerful hitting - and animated celebrations by both. Monfils eventually began to show signs of fatigue, leaning over to gasp for air between points, and Nadal took control.
Nadal, trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open, will meet No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the quarterfinals. Gonzalez eliminated No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4.
“First thing that I have to try is play my tennis,” Gonzalez said. “If I don’t play my tennis, I mean, I have no chance.”
The right-handed Murray was holding his left wrist and grimacing in pain at the end of the first set. He said the wrist had been bothering him for a week or so.
“Regardless of my wrist, I lost the match,” Murray said. “I returned poorly. He served well and that was really the difference.”
Cilic moved on to meet sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who reached his second straight U.S. Open quarterfinals by cruising past No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Cilic vs. del Potro will pit two players who are 20, with lanky frames and big serves.
“For sure, if he beat Murray, he’s confident,” said del Potro, who lost to Murray in the Open quarterfinals a year ago. “It will be very tough for me.”
Cilic said the set points he saved, serving at 4-5 in the first, were the turning point against Murray. He responded by getting ahead 0-40 on Murray’s serve in the net game, won the second break point, then took 13 of the net 17 games for his first career win over an opponent ranked in the top three.
“It was a relief for me to start getting more into the game,” Cilic said of his reaction after saving the set points. “I didn’t have to think too much. I played good, played tactically well, and he was missing.”