No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka upset defending champion Andy Murray 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.
Behind 45 winners, Wawrinka, 28, scored his seventh victory over a top-10 player since April and advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal. The Swiss will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Saturday, in a rematch of their memorable five-set clash in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
While Wawrinka played a strong, aggressive match, Murray was far from his best. Murray, one of the best returners in the game, never earned a break point for only the second time in 146 Grand Slam matches. The Brit, who struggled in every facet of his game, gave up too many free points, hitting 30 unforced errors to just 15 winners. With winds swirling on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Wawrinka used his power to fight the elements, while Murray struggled with his timing.
"I thought he played great," Murray said. "That was the hardest part of the match."
Murray had made the finals in his last four majors (he missed this year's French Open), winning the U.S. Open last year and Wimbledon this year. This is Murray's first loss to a lower-ranked player at a grass- or hard-court Slam since -- wait for it -- Wawrinka, at the 2010 U.S. Open.
"I have played my best tennis in the Slams the last two, three years," Murray said. "I lost today in straight sets, so that's disappointing. I would have liked to have gone further."
Coming into the U.S. Open, Murray was part of a three-man race for the year-end No. 1 ranking with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. His quarterfinal loss will likely put the No. 1 ranking out of his reach until next season.
"I can't complain," Murray said. "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. So I'm disappointed, but the year as a whole has been a good one."
As ESPN has been asking throughout the tournament, "What happens to the dreamer when the dream is achieved?" Murray was bound for a letdown after his historic Wimbledon win in July, when he ended Great Britain's 77-year drought for a men's champion on home soil. This loss marks the third time Murray has failed to make the semifinals of a tournament since Wimbledon, and he admits that he's struggled with his motivation.
"When you work hard for something for a lot of years, it's going to take a bit of time to really fire yourself up and get yourself training 110 percent," Murray said. "That's something that I think is kind of natural after what happened at Wimbledon."
Murray was projected to play Djokovic in the semifinals, a rematch of last year's U.S. Open final. But just as we didn't get the much-hyped quarterfinal between Nadal and Roger Federer, so goes what would have been the third clash between Murray and Djokovic at a Slam this year.
Here are some highlights (and lowlights) from Wawrinka's big win:
Murray breaks a racket:
Wawrinka goes down the line:
Murray's post-match interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5VOnqopGPg