Andy Murray’s bid to reach the Stockholm Open semi-finals was halted by world number 52 Tommy Paul in an absorbing three-set encounter.
American Paul, 24, recovered from a second-set wobble to see off the former world number one 6-2 3-6 6-3 in two hours and 15 minutes on Thursday.
Murray had produced one of his best displays since undergoing hip surgery in early 2019 to defeat top seed Jannik Sinner in the previous round, but was unable to maintain that form.
The 34-year-old Scot struggled to cope with the weight and depth of Paul’s groundstrokes as he was outplayed in the opening set, twice losing serve, in 45 minutes.
Paul, who knocked out fifth-seeded compatriot Taylor Fritz in the second round, was playing at the top of his game and Murray was forced to work hard on his serve to edge 2-1 ahead in the second set.
At 2-2, the younger man’s clean hitting was unrelenting, but two brilliant trademark lobs helped edge Murray back in front at 3-2.
Murray was further rewarded for his patience by breaking to go 4-2 up after Paul’s level dipped in the sixth game.
That became 5-2 when the American missed a crucial half-volley at 30-30 in the next game and Murray went on to level the match, serving out to win the set 6-3 after an hour and 37 minutes.
In the fourth game of the decider, with Murray’s serve under pressure, Paul missed a routine forehand volley for break point and the Scot went on to hold at 2-2.
Paul held serve more comfortably as a compelling duel unfolded, with Murray forced to call on all his resilience as the deciding set was locked at 3-3.
But at 4-3 down, Murray double-faulted – his first such error of the match – on the first break point of the set and at 5-3 up, Paul served out for the match.
I didn’t hit the ball well and was on the back foot in most of the rallies
He will now play fellow American Frances Tiafoe in the last four following his victory over British number two Dan Evans.
Murray said: “I don’t feel frustrated but I didn’t play as well as yesterday. I didn’t hit the ball well and was on the back foot in most of the rallies.
“I think I did well to get myself into a position to maybe turn the match around and I was pleased with that but in the third set I didn’t serve well or return well. It was always going to be difficult to win the final set that way.
“I was just battling, I didn’t play so well. But that’s the first time since February where I’ve played three consecutive days of matches. My body felt pretty good, so that was positive.
“That’s one of the things that I probably haven’t done enough of this year – played back-to-back-to-back matches – and that’s my fault for not winning!”
Evans made a flying start against Tiafoe but the American powered back to win 1-6 6-1 6-1.
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