Andy Murray dropped seven consecutive games after a let call caused by a loud noise in the arena’s speaker system during a fourth-set point and lost to Kei Nishikori 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in a riveting U.S. Open quarterfinal Wednesday.
Murray, the No. 2 seed and 2012 champion at Flushing Meadows, disagreed with chair umpire Marija Cicak’s decision to immediately halt things when play was interrupted by a sound similar to what a gong might make. It happened with Murray already up two sets to one and holding a second break point at 1-all in the fourth.
Murray complained about the ruling right away, gave away the next three points to lose the game, then brought it up again with Cicak at the ensuing changeover, saying something similar had happened earlier without a re-do of the point.
“Exactly the same thing,” Murray exclaimed. “And I told you.”
He also spoke to a tournament supervisor about it, pleading his case and saying, “That’s not fair.”
Murray wound up losing 12 of 14 points right after the let call and seven games in a row to drop that set 6-1 and trail 2-0 in the fifth.
That same type of noise came from the Arthur Ashe Stadium speakers again at 4-1 in the fourth set. It also had happened during a women’s match Monday night between Ana Konjuh and Agnieszka Radwanska.
The U.S. Tennis Association said Wednesday that a “digital audio sound processor” was at fault and would be replaced before the night session.
Despite all the fuss, Murray eventually seemed to recover, breaking back and taking three games in a row to lead 5-4 in the fifth. But he wouldn’t take another game in a thrill-a-minute contest that lasted nearly 4 hours. At 5-all, 30-all, Murray double-faulted to set up break point, and Nishikori converted by reaching for a stretch volley winner.
Murray whacked the net as he went to the sideline for the changeover, and soon enough, his career-best run of reaching seven straight tournament finals would be over.
He had won 26 of his previous 27 matches, included a second Wimbledon championship in July and an unprecedented second consecutive Olympic singles gold medal last month. He beat Nishikori in straight sets in the semifinals at Rio de Janeiro, part of a 7-1 head-to-head edge for Murray coming into Wednesday.
But this time, 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori came through.
He next will face the winner of Wednesday night’s last quarterfinal between 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro and No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka. The other men’s semifinal Friday is No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 10 Gael Monfils.
At 3-all in the second set of Murray vs. Nishikori, rain interrupted play for the second time in the match. The retractable roof atop Ashe was shut during the second, longer shower, and the break of about 20 minutes gave Nishikori’s coach, 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang, a chance to run through the concourse to get down to the locker room and consult with his player.
Maybe that made a difference, because Nishikori eventually took the set by breaking in its last game, as Murray slapped a backhand into the net to close a 15-stroke exchange.
The edge went back to Murray late in the third, when he broke to lead 5-4 as Nishikori missed a backhand. Murray roared and punched the air as he went to the sideline. His coach, eight-time major champion Ivan Lendl, did not exactly mirror that celebratory mood, sitting with chin on hand up in the guest box.
Murray served out that set at love and seemed to be in good shape, up two sets to one. At 1-all in the fourth, though, everything changed.
In the women’s quarterfinals, 10th-seeded Karolina Pliskova easily eliminated Konjuh 6-2, 6-2 in just 57 minutes to get to the final four at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
Heading into the U.S. Open, Pliskova was the only current member of the top 20 in the WTA rankings who never had even been past the third round at a major.
“To be honest, I don’t care at what time it came. I’m just happy that it’s now and that it came,” said the 24-year-old Pliskova, who is participating in the 18th Grand Slam tournament of her career. “There are people saying that I could be there earlier, but right now I feel great and I feel it’s the right time for having the results like this.”
Pliskova leads the tour in aces this season and while she only produced three Wednesday, she 32 of 37 points on her serve and never permitted Konjuh to hold so much as a single break chance.
“Her serve,” the 92nd-ranked Konjuh summed up, “is just too good.”
Pliskova, who saved a match point while defeating seven-time major champion Venus Williams in the fourth round, will take a 10-match winning streak into Thursday’s semifinals. She’ll face Williams’ younger sister, No. 1 Serena, or No. 5 Simona Halep, who were scheduled to play Wednesday night.