Britain’s Andy Murray made his earliest Grand Slam exit of the year as Japan’s Kei Nishikori fought back to win their US Open quarter-final in five sets.
Murray, seeded second, led by two sets to one but eventually lost 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-5 in three hours 57 minutes.
The Wimbledon champion lost his rhythm after rain brought the roof across, and his cool when the stadium sound system interrupted a break point.
Sixth seed Nishikori goes on to face Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka.
“It was too exciting on the court, but I tried to stay calm,” said Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up in New York.
“In the beginning I didn’t start well – he has a great return – but I finished well. The rain delay helped me to change tactics. I tried to hit a few more drop-shots than usual today and it worked really well.”
Murray, 29, had been on course to become only the fourth man since the Open era began in 1968 to reach all four major finals in the same year, having finished runner-up at the Australian and French Opens, and won Wimbledon.
Sound system ‘malfunction’ upsets Murray
The decision to keep the roof closed, despite the weather quickly improving, and a “malfunctioning digital audio sound processor” – as described by the United States Tennis Association – upset Murray’s rhythm and composure, in contrast to the impressive Nishikori.
“When we stopped the point at break point at the beginning of the fourth set, it was the fourth time it had happened in the match and the first time we had stopped the point,” Murray said of the loud noise that halted play as he held set point in the fourth set.
He added: “Under the roof he was able to dictate more of the points and playing closer to the baseline than me.”
Nishikori holds his nerve in decider
Murray began in terrific form, overpowering Nishikori in a 35-minute first set, but lost control of the match when a passing rain shower led to the new roof being brought over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nishikori levelled at one set all and infuriated Murray by breaking straight back three times after losing his serve.
Murray’s frustration only grew when he let a 40-0 lead slip at 4-4 in the third, but when the Scot took the next two games he looked to have finally taken control.
His momentum stalled dramatically early in the fourth set when he was seemingly in charge of a rally on break point, only for the stadium sound system to emit a loud noise that caused the umpire to halt the point.
Murray was furious, arguing with both umpire and tournament referee, but the point, the game and, within half an hour, the set went Nishikori’s way.
A butterfly persistently fluttering around the net only added to Murray’s annoyance as the 2012 champion lost seven straight games, but twice fought back from a break down in the fifth set to edge ahead at 5-4.
With 16 service breaks between them, there seemed every chance Murray would finally get over the finish line, but Nishikori played superbly to hold to love and it was the Japanese who then claimed the 17th and decisive break.
There was to be no final set tie-break as Nishikori proved the stronger with another nerveless hold that ended Murray’s hopes.