Andy Murray lost his way, seven consecutive games and eventually his riveting five-set US Open quarter-final against Kei Nishikori after a loud noise from a malfunctioning sound system interrupted a key point.
Following the gong-like sound and chair umpire Marija Cicak’s let ruling, Nishikori came back on Wednesday to win 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-5 in a see-sawing four-hour match.
Murray’s extended discussions with Cicak and another official about the unusual episode came while he dropped 12 of 14 points.
He went from leading two sets to one, plus a break point at 1-1 in the fourth, to losing that set and trailing 2-0 in the fifth.
“I could have won the match, for sure,” said the No.2 seed and 2012 champion.
With the outcome never a certainty, Nishikori said: “It was tough to stay calm at the start.
“In the end, though, it was great tennis. I’m very happy.”
No.6 seed Nishikori reached a grand slam semi-final for the first time since his run to the 2014 US Open final. He faces No.3 seed Stan Wawrinka, who ended the resurgent run of 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 6-2 in a quarter-final that finished on Thursday after 1:00am.
Australian and French Open winner Wawrinka’s last game was delayed while the crowd saluted the popular del Potro, who missed the past two US Opens because of three wrist operations. As fans stood and applauded, del Potro wiped away tears.
The Argentine had missed nine successive slams before returning to Wimbledon, where he beat Wawrinka in the second round, and went on to claim silver at the Rio Olympics.
Murray acknowledged a brief dip in play, but preferred to focus on other reasons for Nishikori’s victory.
“I broke serve enough times,” Murray said. “I just didn’t hold serve enough. That was the difference.”
But 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 and play had continued.
“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”.
Despite all the fuss, Murray went ahead 5-4 in the fifth. But he did not win another game.
Murray slammed his racket against the net and cursed. Soon enough, his career-best run of reaching seven straight tournament finals was done.
“I would have loved to have gone further,” Murray said, “but it wasn’t to be today.”
The same noise came from the speakers again at 4-1 in the fourth set. It also had happened during Monday night’s match between Ana Konjuh and Agnieszka Radwanska.
The US Tennis Association said a faulty “digital audio sound processor” would be replaced before the night session.
The other men’s semi-final will pit No.1 Novak Djokovic against 10th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils.