Murray bows out in Cincinnati
Andy Murray's preparations for the US Open suffered a blow as he crashed out of the Western & Southern Open with a straight-sets defeat to Tomas Berdych.
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Murray is looking to retain his crown at Flushing Meadows, but with the final grand slam of the year set to start in 10 days' time, the Scottish world number two would have been hoping for a good run in in Cincinnati this week.
Despite starting well in his quarter-final encounter against Berdych, Murray failed to take his chances as he suffered a surprise 6-3 6-4 defeat.
World number six Berdych had triumphed in the pair's last encounter, at the Madrid Masters in May, but Murray defeated the Czech en route to his Flushing Meadows win last year.
And it seemed the Wimbledon champion was at the top of his game after Berdych barely escaped his opening service game before Murray opened his account with four aces.
The two-time grand slam champion continued to pressurise his opponent's serve, but Berdych held firm and then broke in the eighth game after Murray netted a forehand.
Berdych served to love to wrap up the first set and then staved off three break points in his next service game.
It proved to be a crucial hold as Berdych then broke 2008 and 2011 Cincinnati winner Murray in the next game at the second attempt.
Despite fleeting moments of quality, Murray failed to force his way back into the contest and a composed Berdych held his nerve to see the match out.
Murray admitted he found the court conditions difficult to deal with.
"The court was lively today," Murray told the ATP World Tour's official website. "It was bouncing pretty high. It was quite tough to control the ball. I made too many errors.
"You have tactics for each player and sometimes executing the tactics is tough. That can be down to the way that your opponent plays.
"Sometimes it's the way that he plays. Sometimes it can be the conditions. You need to make adjustments."