Murray dumped out by Raonic
Andy Murray was outplayed by ‘New Pete Sampras’ Milos Raonic as the Scot was eliminated in straight sets from the quarter-finals of ATP Barcelona.
For long stretches of the match, Murray had no answer to the 6’5” Canadian’s service and eventually bowed out 4-6 6-7(3).
World number 25 Raonic, 21 years of age and expected to shoot up the ATP rankings this year, will play third seed David Ferrer in the semi-finals after he later beat seventh seed Feliciano Lopez 6-7(4) 7-6(7) 6-3.
Murray is ranked fourth in the world, but seemed the underdog against a player who will surely also compete for Grand Slam titles in the future.
"Clay's not (Murray's) best surface, but he consistently does well on it," Raonic said after the match.
"Last year he reached the semi-finals at the French Open, Monte Carlo and Rome, so he can play really well on it. For me, it was a big win, regardless of the surface."
The writing was on the wall as early as the first game, as Murray fought tooth and nail to hold in the face of an onslaught of Raonic forehands.
Raonic has slammed down well over 300 aces this year and started his haul in this match with a pair in his opening service game. At one point Murray, awarded a point for a serve incorrectly called long, displayed sportsmanship in unsuccessfully asking the umpire to overturn the decision. Had it been later in the match, he may have thought twice about such a magnanimous gesture.
The set remained on serve until 3-3, with Murray utterly unable to threaten that of his rival and having to battle to hold his own.
In the seventh game he came unstuck. Already in trouble at the start of the game, an ill-advised drop-shot brought Raonic in and, when Murray looked to lob, a smash put him break point down. An error followed to give Raonic control of the set.
He moved within a game of claiming it thanks, in part, to a scintillating winner which left Murray floundering. The latter then had to dig in to force the Canadian to serve it out, following up a double fault with a timely ace.
Serve it out he did, in typical style: he ended the set having won 94 per cent of his first-service points.
Murray improved on his serve in the second set, claiming a love game to hold as he went 2-1 up, but had again failed miserably to challenge the Raonic serve in the second game.
It was a different story in the fourth game. He took two points off the Raonic serve for the first time, thanks to errors, but also displayed a greater willingness to attack the net and force his rival’s hand. In doing so they went to deuce then advantage Murray, although Raonic ultimately served his way out of the situation.
It was a tactic that the Briton continued to adopt, but the man on the other side of the net was simply playing better than him; winners and cushioned volleys kept Murray in the match but he could not find a definitive answer to that serve or the barrage of groundstrokes that followed it when they were necessary.
At 3-3 Murray found himself two break points down and saved them then held with some kamikaze attacking at the net.
Raonic levelled once more then broke as a flat winner right on the sideline defeated Murray’s despairing dive before he converted the subsequent chance.
With Raonic serving for the match, Murray looked down and out. However while powerless at the back of the court his opponent smashed long then hit another shot out to give him hope; two break points, the second of them converted, were won with a brave passing shot on the run.
A perfect service game followed, but Raonic also held to force a tie-break - and Murray looked a beaten man in losing six of the first seven points.
A brief fightback in which he held two service points proved insufficient as Murray bowed out to a player he will likely face in more illustrious circumstances in future.