Andy Murray has exited at the quarter-final stage of the Hall of Fame Open in Newport after losing in straight sets to Alexander Bublik.
In their fourth meeting of the year, Bublik prevailed 7-5 6-3 to end Murray’s season on grass, two weeks after his Wimbledon exit in the second round.
Looking ahead, Murray could play five more events before the US Open starts, but he will be frustrated by his exit to the world No 42.
He trailed Bublik in the key serving statistics, and was only able to save one of the four break points handed to the Kazakhstani.
Murray had limped his way to victory in his previous match, hobbling towards Max Purcell after beating the Australian in three sets on Wednesday. However, thanks to a rest day, there were few signs that this injury had persisted for the 35-year-old on Friday.
Whether it is Wimbledon or an ATP 250 event in Rhode Island, Murray’s will to win is relentless, and the fist pumps were a regular occurrence as he stayed on serve with Bublik in the opening set.
In all four of their prior meetings heading into this match, the player who won the first set went on to advance, while their three showdowns already in 2022 had all featured one tie-break – outlining how close the pair’s level currently is.
A first-set breaker was looming in Newport, with no break points on offer for either player 10 games down, but in the 11th Bublik struck – giving Murray the runaround and converting the first opportunity.
The audible cries of “No!” had increased as the set went on for Murray, while Bublik then made no mistake on serve to take it 7-5.
Bublik kept up that momentum when breaking immediately in the second set, and though Murray was bemoaning his own movement in the second game – “C’mon! Move!” – he managed to break back straight away.
A foot fault saw Bublik lose his cool in the sixth game, but after gifting Murray a break point he saved it and held to remain on serve at 3-3.
A fired-up Bublik then brought up two break points, converting the first with a huge backhand to leave Murray staring at defeat.
Bublik was then serving for the match, and after one final cry of “Rubbish!” from Murray following the third point, the Briton saved two match points but could not save the third, bowing out of Newport and waving goodbye to his 2022 grass-court season in the process.
Looking forward, Murray is down to play Atlanta next, which starts on 25 July, while he could play four more events before the US Open begins.
His schedule will depend on his ranking, with his desire to be seeded at the US Open no secret, and the points picked up from his quarter-final exit are projected to lift him from No 52 in the world to No 49.
That is still some way off the top 32, while it has been four years since he was in the top 40, but a full schedule could see him rise up the rankings.
However, a strong showing will be expected at the US Open warm-up events in August – the ATP 500 in Washington and the Masters 1000 double header in Montreal and then Cincinnati.
Deep runs at those tournaments would certainly help Murray’s cause, but draws can sometimes be unkind to the unseeded, meaning he faces a rocky road ahead.