Andy Murray’s grass-court adventure came to an end for another year on Friday after his run at the Hall of Fame Open in Rhode Island was ended at the quarter-final stage by Alexander Bublik.
Murray was out-smarted by the Kazakh, losing 7-5 6-4 with Bublik crashing down 12 aces on the lawns of the low-key event in Newport.
The first set remained on serve until the 11th game when Bublik made the most of the first break point of the last-eight tie to take the initiative.
A lengthy rally was ended by a fine backhand winner from the world No 42 and saw Murray let out his frustration by throwing his racket into the net.
When the third seed served out for the first set in 58 minutes and broke his rival at the start of the second, the momentum had firmly swung.
Murray responded immediately and began his latest comeback quest, but a crucial sixth game of the second set proved decisive.
Sixth seed Murray was unable to break Bublik following a lengthy service game and then let slip on his own serve.
While Murray fought back from 0-30 down to force Bublik to serve out for the match, and saved two match points, the Kazakhstan player made no mistake at the third time of asking to progress into the semi-finals of the Rhode Island tournament.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Murray will now turn his attention to the hard-court season, with an appearance already confirmed at the Citi Open later this month to begin his preparations for next month’s US Open.
Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins surprised former world No 1 Murray in Newport, telling him: “I admire your grit.”
The 33-year-old star later told the official ATP Tour website: “That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of him: his grit, toughness, the ability to come back from injury. Tennis is already mentally [difficult] as a singles player, you’re on your own. Matches can get long, you need to dig deep. It can be mentally and emotionally heart-breaking.
“The way he’s handled not only his career, but individual matches, it is inspiring to watch and kind of helps me with what I’m doing.”
Eastbourne finalist Maxime Cressy defeated 2018 Newport champion Steve Johnson 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-4 to advance to the semi-finals.
“It was actually a very tough first set, a lot of nerves. Playing on the centre court is incredible,” Cressy said in his on-court interview.
“[Johnson] is a terrific player. He was extremely focussed and sharp on the serve in the first set. I had to stay focussed on my serve, what I can control, and I was really able to do it successfully, especially starting in the second set.”
John Isner, the No 2 seed, also made it through to the last four with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5) victory over Benjamin Bonzi of France, winning the match on his eighth match point.
Isner landed 29 aces during a quarter-final clash that lasted just shy of three hours.
“I got off to a good start in the [final] tie-break and I needed every single bit of it, obviously,” Isner said post-match. “Eventually I was able to win. That was a crazy match, for sure.”
Australian Jason Kubler continued his good form from Wimbledon by knocking out top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) to reach his first tour-level quarter-final.
“I was pretty nervous, to be honest,” the 29-year-old said. “Luckily the last couple months I’ve been doing so much work on my serve. I was thinking about all the stuff I’ve done the last couple of months and that’s what gave me a bit of confidence.
“Just very fortunate to be in this position. Today could have gone either way. Fortunate that it went my way today, but I’m just happy that I stuck in and tried my best for the whole time.”