Andy Murray suffered yet another early Masters exit, losing 3-6, 4-6 to Tomas Berdych. After a bright start the Scot lost his way and was defeated by an opponent playing solid but unspectacular tennis.
Berdych has long been a thorn in Murray's side, but this time the Scot was the architect of his own downfall. The Wimbledon champion was at his profligate worst, heaping pressure on his opponent before committing inexplicable unforced errors and donating service games.
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Paradoxically Murray looked the better player at the start, pinning Berdych to the back of the court with aggressive play. The Scot also looked secure on serve until a sequence of unforced errors in the eighth game handed his opponent a break. Berdych served the set out to love and Murray's wagon was wobbling.
The Scot started the second set well, securing three break points in the first game. He was unable to convert and immediately dropped his own serve. This proved decisive and Berdych cruised to victory.
This was a peculiar performance from Murray who showed flashes of genius but was far too inconsistent from the back of the court. Any pressure the Scot exerted on his opponent was invariably released with an unforced error.
Since joining with Lendl Murray's record outside of slams has been decidedly patchy and the Scot has now lost before the semi-finals in six of the last 8 Masters events. Whether this is part of an overarching plan or just lack of motivation is subject of some speculation. If the world number two defends his US Open crown then this approach will be vindicated - so perhaps it's best to reserve final judgement until the trophy is held aloft at Flushing Meadows.