MONTE CARLO • Andy Murray's inexplicable profligacy in sight of the finish line wrecked what was shaping up to be a satisfactory comeback from injury, not to mention his preparations for the French Open.
He gifted the Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas his first quarter-final place at the Monte Carlo Masters yesterday.
The world No. 1 blew two break points for a 5-1 lead in the third set before falling 6-2, 2-6, 5-7.
It is the first time since he lost to Rafael Nadal in a semi-final in Monte Carlo six years ago that Murray has been broken seven times in a three-setter, a statistic he will not want to dwell on before heading for either Barcelona or Budapest next week.
The odds are Murray will opt for the easier challenge of Budapest, a new tournament where he will be able to regroup with less pressure.
Frustrated by his serve, which remains worryingly underpowered after the latest of his recent elbow problems, the Scot could not find enough magic to overpower Ramos-Vinolas, who was well worth the biggest of his career and his first over a world No. 1.
Murray, a three-time Monte Carlo semi-finalist, raced away with the first set, before the world No. 24 found his feet to level the score, then neutralised a 4-0 Murray lead in the third set.
"Come on! Come on! I don't know how to play!" Murray screamed at himself during one changeover.
Ramos-Vinolas then edged ahead, with Murray saving a match point in the final game but the reigning Olympic champion missed on a drop shot to hand a shock win to his opponent.
Murray was making his first ATP appearance since a second-round loss to Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells on March 12.
His quest for a first Monte Carlo title goes on, one of only two Masters 1000 events he has never won.
His reign at the top of the rankings is not under immediate threat but he will have get some points on the board soon to hold off the charge of those closing in on him if he is to still be No. 1 when he defends his Wimbledon title in June.
In another upset in the third round yesterday, third seed Stan Wawrinka was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by 16th seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
Earlier, Croatian fifth seed Marin Cilic beat the Czech Republic's ninth seed Tomas Berdych 6-2, 7-6 (7-0).
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ATP MONTE CARLO MASTERS
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