Defending champ Murray swept out of US Open
NEW YORK — Andy Murray smashed a racket, screamed, sulked.
Dispatched in straight sets by his Swiss opponent after some sloppy play, Murray reverted to the guy whose Grand Slam runs end in dismay.
But once it was all over, everything was different. Murray no longer must answer the questions of when he’ll win a major title.
The defending U.S. Open champ was upset 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 by ninth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals Thursday, then put it all in perspective.
“I lost today in straight sets, so that’s disappointing,” Murray said. “I would have liked to have gone further. But, look, I can’t complain. If someone told me before the U.S. Open last year I would have been here as defending champion having won Wimbledon and Olympic gold, I would have taken that 100 percent.”
While Murray insisted he had regained his focus just fine after that historic Wimbledon title two months ago, he acknowledged the mental drain of the last, life-changing 13 months. Simply closing out those final points when he became the first British man in 77 years to win their home Grand Slam tournament. The grueling finals against Novak Djokovic at last year’s U.S. Open — a win for his first major title — and this year’s Australian Open, a loss.
They won’t be getting a rematch in Saturday’s semifinals. The top-ranked Djokovic had a brief blip against 21st-seeded Mikhail Youzhny later Thursday, but he was otherwise in control in a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 victory that set up a semifinal against Wawrinka.
“I start pushing the ball a little bit and wasn’t as maybe confident to take a step forward and go for the shots,” Djokovic said. “That caused some unforced errors and allowed him to come to the court and be more aggressive. That’s why it resulted with a third-set loss. I just went back to the game that I had from the start of the match, and I played a fantastic set. Overall, everything was working. I was aggressive. I was serving well. Just the way I actually should play.”
The 28-year-old Wawrinka reached his first Grand Slam semifinal in his 35th appearance. Afterward, good friend Roger Federer sent him a congratulatory text. For once, Wawrinka is the last Swiss player standing after Federer lost in the fourth round.
“Today, for sure, it’s my moment,” Wawrinka said.
He played aggressively and didn’t face a single break point against Murray, one of the sport’s top returners.
Some of Wawrinka’s newfound confidence can be traced to the last time he faced Djokovic. He pushed the eventual champion to five sets in the fourth round at the Australian Open to start the year, finally losing 12-10 in the fifth.
“I say many times that it’s one of the key of the season, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “That was a really tough moment, but at the end, I was really positive with that match because all Australian Open my level was quite good and was better than ever.”
In Saturday’s semis, Wawrinka and another player making a breakthrough run, eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet, will try to upend what has been looking like an inevitable final of Djokovic against Rafael Nadal for the third time in four years. The two top-ranked players have both been close to dominant all tournament.
The women’s semifinals are Friday, with No. 1 Serena Williams facing No. 5 Li Na, and No. 2 Victoria Azarenka playing unseeded Flavia Pennetta.
Djokovic dropped a set for the first time this tournament, then quickly won six straight games to reach his 14th straight Grand Slam semifinal. Youzhny is 0-11 against No. 1 players.
Djokovic knows after their match at the Australian Open that Wawrinka has the ability to beat the best in the world.
“It’s definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played in my life on this surface,” Djokovic said, “that played on a very, very high level.”
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