MONACO: Top-ranked Andy Murray threw away a 4-0 lead in the deciding set of his third-round match on Thursday as 15th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas won 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Murray, who is returning after a spell out with a right elbow injury, looked rusty on the clay-court surface and struggled on his serve in a scrappy match lasting more than 2 ½ hours and featuring 13 service breaks — including seven against Murray, who struggled with the Spaniard’s heavy forehands.
“I’m disappointed to lose from the position that I was in,” said Murray, last year’s French Open runner-up. “Being 4-love up in the third, I haven’t lost many matches like that in my career.”
Ramos-Vinolas faces fifth-seeded Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. The Croatian reached the last eight after beating No. 9 Tomas Berdych 6-2, 7-6 (0).
Former French Open and Monte Carlo champion Stan Wawrinka followed Murray out of the tournament, losing 6-4, 6-4 to 16th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
Wawrinka never found his touch or range and conceded match point when his backhand pass — normally one of the best shots in men’s tennis — clipped the net and went out. Cuevas hit a sweet forehand winner down the line on the next point and raised his arms in the air after beating Wawrinka in their first-ever meeting.
Murray was also facing an opponent for the first time, and a double break put him 4-0 up in the decider but 24th-ranked Ramos-Vinolas broke back twice to level the match at 4-4.
“He obviously started playing better toward the end of the set. I still had a bunch of chances, I guess both of us did really,” Murray said. “I should have been able to do enough to sort of weather that storm a little bit and finish the match off.”
Murray also struggled in the ninth game, taken to deuce before finally holding and then unsuccessfully pressuring the Spaniard’s serve in the next game. After breaking Murray’s serve again, Ramos-Vinolas served out the match on his second match point.
He sent a backhand wide on his first match point and then clinched victory when Murray’s backhand hit the net.
Murray refused to blame the elbow injury that ruled him out of the Miami Open and the recent Davis Cup quarterfinal against France.
“My elbow felt pretty good,” he said. “That’s only going to get better. So hopefully I keep going in the right direction.”
It was more a case of Murray being unable to play his natural game.
“I don’t hit the ball as hard as a lot of the guys. I normally beat guys by maneuvering them around the court rather than blasting them off the court,” he said. “A few times today, I made some bad decisions. That’s something that, with my team, I’ll look at (and) watch some parts of the match over.”
In a match between powerful hitters, Cilic was serving for victory at 5-4. After a long game Berdych broke back for 5-5 and then forced a tiebreaker, but the Czech player wilted against the 2014 U.S. Open champion.
No. 11 Lucas Pouille of France was leading 3-0 when countryman Adrian Mannarino retired with a hip problem.
Later Thursday, No. 2 Novak Djokovic and defending champion Rafael Nadal were all in action.
No. 4 Nadal takes on No. 14 Alexander Zverev, and Djokovic plays No. 13 Pablo Carreno Busta. -- AP