Andy Murray's meltdown lets gutsy Nishikori win five-set thriller at US Open
Life is often less than straightforward when Andy Murray is on the court and the Wimbledon and Olympic champion's US Open campaign ended here in dramatic circumstances.
Murray was leading by two sets to one and looking comfortable in his quarter-final against Kei Nishikori before suffering a meltdown from which he never fully recovered.
Nishikori, who won 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-5, had been facing an uphill battle until a crucial incident early in the fourth set turned the match around. The 26-year-old Japanese, serving at 1-1 and 30-40, seemed set to lose the next point when the umpire, Marija Cicak, halted play after the stadium's PA system emitted a loud bleep.
Murray was furious, claiming that Cicak had said earlier that they would play through any noise distractions, and after losing the game the Scot made his point to one of the supervisors. His focus diverted, however, Murray lost 13 of the next 15 points and did not win another game until he trailed 2-0 in the deciding set.
Although the Scot brought the score back to 2-2 in the fifth set and recovered another break to level at 4-4, Nishikori kept his nerve and made his final break to lead 6-5 before serving out.
Murray, who had lost only one match since his defeat to Novak Djokovic in the French Open final three months ago, had been viewed in some quarters as the favourite to win his fourth Grand Slam title here.
He had also been just two wins away from becoming only the fourth man in the Open era - after Rod Laver, Roger Federer and Djokovic - to reach all four Slam finals in the same year.
However, it will be Nishikori who goes through to tomorrow's semi-finals, in which he will face Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic takes on France's Gael Monfils in the other semi-final.
Murray, who had not lost in his previous six Grand Slam quarter-finals, had won seven of his eight meetings with Nishikori, including their most recent encounter in the Olympic semis.
The Scot went 0-40 down in the first game but held serve after winning the next five points. In the rest of the first set he dropped only three more points on serve.
Murray broke for the first time when Nishikori served at 1-2. A stunning winning lob put Murray on his way and after Nishikori had double-faulted at 30-30, the Scot finished the job.
Nishikori promptly changed his racket but continued to make too many mistakes as Murray took the first set in just 35 minutes. The World No.2 broke again to lead 5-1 and served out for the set with an ace.
At 2-2 in the second set another series of errors cost Nishikori his serve, but he broke back immediately.
A few drops of rain had been falling in the second set and at 3-3 play was stopped for 20 minutes while the roof was closed. When they returned Nishikori appeared to adopt a more positive approach, while Murray's level dipped.
The Scot did not appear to be in any danger until he served at 4-5 and 30-30, when two unforced errors cost him the set.
Murray vented his frustration when he twice let slip breaks of serve in the third set, but at 4-4 he broke again. He promptly served out for the set.
However, everything changed with "Bleepgate", after which Nishikori became the player setting the pace. Although Murray fought his way back at the start of the fifth set, breaking back to level at 2-2, Nishikori broke again in the following game.
Nishikori went 40-0 up when he served at 4-3, only to lose the next five points.
At 5-5, however, it was Nishikori's turn to make what proved to be the decisive break. At 30-30 Murray double-faulted and on the next point Nishikori won a superb rally. On Nishikori's first match point in the following game, Murray netted a backhand to give the Japanese victory in just under four hours.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, meanwhile, reached the semi-finals of the men's doubles when they beat Chris Guccione and Andre Sa 7-6 2-6 6-3.