Andy Murray headed into the United States Open ranked second in the world, with so much momentum that many saw him as the player with the best chance of upsetting No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
After he lost to Djokovic in the French Open final, Murray went on to win the title at Wimbledon and the gold medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Heading into his quarterfinal match with sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori on Wednesday, Murray had won 26 of his last 27 matches.
But his bid for a second U.S. Open title came to an abrupt end as Nishikori staged a thrilling 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 upset under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The final point came with Nishikori pushing Murray wide and forcing a reaching backhand into the net. But the moment when everyone in the stadium knew it was going to end badly for Murray was when Nishikori broke him in the 11th game of the final set.
Looking to protect a break point, Murray had the chance to put away a backhand. But he left the ball up for Nishikori, who ended the point with a volley. Murray’s reaction said everything about his day: He hammered his racket down in a violent overhead smash on the top of the net and continued on to his seat, shouting at himself.
Nishikori, the U.S. Open runner-up in 2014, reached the semifinals for only the second time at a major tournament. He will play the winner of the match between No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and the wild card Juan Martín del Potro that was scheduled for Wednesday night.
The quarterfinal between Murray and Nishikori was a tense, back-and-forth encounter marked by the closure of the roof midmatch because of a brief light rain, an unexpected…