By Simon Evans
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andy Murray's U.S. Open title defense ended with a whimper as he crashed to a 6-4 6-3 6-2 defeat in the quarter-finals to ninth-seeded Swiss Stansilas Wawrinka on Thursday.
The British third seed looked a shadow of the player who won Wimbledon two months ago, turning in a listless display against an opponent who sensed his weakness from the outset and went in for the kill.
Murray has not looked at his best since his triumph at the All England Club but the manner and margin of his loss at Arthur Ashe Stadium was nonetheless a shock.
The match turned in Wawrinka's favor at the end of the opening set, which was on serve at 5-4 to the Swiss but ended in an enthralling 10th game.
Murray made several errors but still managed to save five set points. He finally gave up the set when he sent a forehand long and responded by angrily smashing his racket onto the court.
The frustration might have indicated a more aggressive Murray to come but his struggles extended to the second set where he allowed his opponent triple break point in the sixth game, which Wawrinka took advantage of with a superb backhand winner down the line.
Wawrinka held his serve to take the second set and his joyful reaction illustrated his belief that a first grand slam semi-finals appearance was within his reach.
A double fault on break point from Murray in the third game of the final set summed up his afternoon and the match was put beyond him with a brilliant forehand winner from the Swiss broke Murray again to go up 5-2.
For the Scotsman, the defeat marked his second loss to Wawrinka this year, having fallen in a last-16 clash on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters in April.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue)