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Andy Murray’s preparations for defence of his US Open crown took a hit as he was dumped out of Cincinnati Open at the quarter-final stage by Czech Republic ace Tomas Berdych.
The British number one had been hoping for a longer run in Cincinnati after suffering a surprise defeat to Ernests Gulbis at the Rogers Cup in Montreal last week.
Despite his setback in the singles, Murray did have the chance to adjust to the hard courts with a run all the way to the final in the doubles alongside Colin Fleming in Canada – and that had appeared to pay off.
Murray appeared to be back to his best when dispatching Mikhail Youzhny and Julien Benneteau with the minimum of fuss to reach the Cincinnati last-eight, but had no answer to Berdych’s power game and slumped to a 6-3 6-4 defeat.
The Wimbledon champion failed to take advantage of his four break-point opportunities with Berdych – who also suffered a shock defeat in Montreal – making full use of his own to record a second successive win over the world number two, following his straight-sets win over Murray in Monte Carlo in May.
Murray had no complaints about the result and admitted that he found it tough going against the world number six, while also failing to come to terms with the conditions.
“The court was lively today,” Murray said. “It was bouncing pretty high. It was quite tough to control the ball. I made too many errors.
“You have tactics for each player and sometimes executing the tactics is tough. That can be down to the way that your opponent plays. Sometimes it’s the way that he plays. Sometimes it can be the conditions. You need to make adjustments.”
The world number two will now head to Flushing Meadows for the defence of his US Open title, for which he is generally the second favourite, after a difficult time on the hardcourts, but finds himself in good company.
World number one Novak Djokovic, after losing in the Rogers Cup semi-finals last week, has followed Murray in also making an early exit in Cincinnati after losing a thriller to American John Isner 6-7 6-3 5-7.