Andy Murray’s 18-match winning run came to an end in the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters yesterday, as Tomas Berdych came from behind to secure a thrilling win over the world No 3.
With Murray’s form so imperious going into the match – he had won his last three tournaments and overtaken Roger Federer in the rankings – it was expected he would routinely secure a last-four berth when he won the first set.
But Berdych, who now has a 3-1 record over the Scot, dug deep and raised his game to a new level in the next two thrilling sets, often forcing Murray to lose his temper as he won 4-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-4.
Murray engaged in a heated debate with the umpire midway through the final set, his anger no doubt increased by the amount of chances he passed up during the three-hour 10-minute tussle.
Speaking after the match, Murray was already looking ahead to the season-ending World Tour Finals in London.
“I got good practice going into London, which I didn’t have coming in here,” he said.
“I’ll need to work on a few things. I was moving much better than I did in my first match by the end of this one.
“I was really unhappy with the way I hit my backhand today, which is normally my most solid shot, so that’s something I’ll look to work on.
“I didn’t feel all that comfortable on my serve this week, even though I didn’t get broken the first couple of matches.”
A love service game to get to 3-3 helped Murray settle and in the next game he broke, with his aggressive passing forehand forcing Berdych to net after he had charged in once more.
Murray staved off two break points in the next game, moving to within a game of the set in the process, but he spurned seven chances to take if off the Berdych serve in the ninth game.
However, his generosity did not cost him and he took the set on serve in the next game, sealing it when he crunched a forehand from wide out that Berdych could only return into the net.
It was Berdych’s first dropped set of the week, but he immediately set about trying to win one back, holding and then breaking Murray at the start of the second.
Murray broke back to take the set through to a tie-break, but then contrived to undo his hard work by losing it.
Serve was held for the first three games of the decider, but it should have been lost in the fourth when Murray earned and then squandered two break points.
The crucial break came in the ninth game, though, with Murray screaming out in frustration as he planted a forehand wide to give Berdych three break points, one of which he was unable to save courtesy of a double fault.
Berdych then served out the match for victory.