Andy Murray dropped the opening set to sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych and never recovered, losing his quarterfinal match at the Western & Southern Open on Friday in Cincinnati by a score of 6-3, 6-4.
The winner of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will face Berdych in the semifinals at this Masters tournament, which serves as part of the U.S. Open series leading into 2013's final Grand Slam event.
It was a critical win for Berdych, who is in position to possibly overtake Federer at No. 5 in the ATP rankings:
Despite smashing eight aces in the first set, Murray was unable to overcome brilliant play by his Czech opponent, who broke him at 4-3 and then promptly held at love to move one set away from victory.
Live Tennis pointed to a line call that Murray was distracted by, suggesting it caused his focus to stray:
After saving two break points at 1-1 in the second, the persistence by Berdych caused Murray to crack again, yielding an early advantage that he couldn't overcome.
This continued a bit of a letdown for Murray since he triumphed at Wimbledon just over a month ago, which is somewhat understandable. Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times got that impression:
If the brilliant Scot wants to have a shot at defending his U.S. Open trophy, he must get his game together soon. Having said that, nothing should be taken away from how magnificently Berdych played to advance.
Berdych boasts a thunderous forehand that had Murray scrambling throughout the match just to stay in rallies. The hard-court surface only made it more difficult for Murray to keep up, though he did prevent the hard-serving Berdych from acing him for much of the afternoon.
Murray had four break point chances in total but could not convert, as Berdych proved to be too much to handle with his powerful groundstrokes. When any type of rally got going, Berdych was in total command.
It was a slight upset with regard to how these two players are seeded, but based on history, there shouldn't be too much surprise in this result. Berdych improved to 6-4 in his career against Murray with Friday's victory on the Grandstand court.
The only aspects that have separated Berdych from the truly elite players in men's tennis are overall consistency and resolve in big matches. With regard to consistency, signs of improvement are evident, as Berdych was playing in his 12th quarterfinal in 16 completed events this season, per ESPN2's telecast.
It just so happened that Berdych was at the peak of his game on this day, and although Murray put forth a valiant effort, his counterpart capitalized on every opening and thoroughly dominated.
Note: Statistics and information are courtesy of CincyTennis.com.