Andy Murray suffered a straight-sets defeat to world No 9 Matteo Berrettini at the cinch Championships as he continues his return to action after a string of injury problems.
Murray had eased past Benoit Paire on Tuesday in his first outing since March, but one day after being given a wild card for Wimbledon, Murray’s preparations for this year’s event were halted by the classy Berrettini.
The Scot must now decide how best to get ready for Wimbledon, which begins on Monday June 28, with a wild card to next week’s tournament in Eastbourne a possibility as he looks to shake off the ring rust that was evident against a near-flawless opponent.
Five-time Queen’s champion Murray, now ranked 124 in the world after a string of injury problems, went down 6-3, 6-3 against big-serving Berrettini, the top seed for the event who was a much tougher proposition right from the outset.
The Italian, a former US Open semi-finalist and a quarter-finalist at the French Open just a couple of weeks ago, advances to face Dan Evans in the last eight after the current British No 1 proved too strong for Adrian Mannarino.
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Daniel Evans joins countrymen @Cam_Norrie and Jack Draper in @QueensTennis QFs with @Andy_Murray still to come.
Three Brits are in #cinchChampionships QF for 1st time in Open Era and any @ATPTour QF for 1st time since 1996 Nottingham (Tim Henman, @_MarkPetchey, @GregRusedski1).
Berrettini too good for returning Murray
Murray’s last encounter against a member of the world’s top 10 ended in defeat to Andrey Rublev in Rotterdam in March and he was up against it early on when facing 25-year-old Berrettini.
After the first four games had gone with serve, Berrettini fashioned three break points. The Scot saved the first two but Berrettini sealed the breakthrough and then consolidated for a 4-2 advantage.
Murray managed to eke out a couple of break-point opportunities of his own but was unable to make serious inroads as Berrettini fired down 10 aces and won 84% of points behind his first serve in the opening set alone. With errors creeping into the Murray game, Berrettini broke the Scot’s serve again to seal the first set.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray has missed 10 of the last 14 Grand Slams and has just two wins from the four he has competed in during that time but he remains determined to compete at the All England Club this year.
Having undergone hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019, niggling injuries and a positive COVID-19 test have further limited his attempts to gain some momentum, and in Berrettini, he had an opponent who did not give him an inch.
The Italian broke Murray in the second game of the second set – a third break from four Murray service games – and eased through the remainder of the contest.
Murray staved off further break points to force Berrettini to serve it out – and he did, fittingly a brilliant serving performance saw him across the line and into the quarter-finals as he chases a second title of the year.
cinch Championships: Quarter-Finals
Evans ensures British history made
Earlier in the day, Evans continued a fine week for the British men, beating France’s Adrian Mannarino in straight sets to set up his date with Berrettini.
After Draper and Norrie had won on Wednesday, Evans’ victory means that three British men reached the last eight at Queen’s for the first time in the Open era.
Evans has enjoyed an impressive year, including picking up his first ATP singles title in Melbourne in February, and his 6-4 7-6 win over Mannarino saw him through to his fourth quarter-final of the year.
With little between the pair, sixth seed Evans underlined the maturity he has shown over the last couple of years by winning the key moments for an impressive victory.
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Konta to miss Eastbourne and focus on Wimbledon
After winning her first title since 2017 in Nottingham last week, Johanna Konta has announced that she will miss next week’s final event before Wimbledon.
The British No 1, who beat Shangi Zhang to win the Viking Open on Sunday, will miss the tournament in Eastbourne because of continuing concerns over her right knee.
Konta put a disappointing and disrupted year behind her with the title in Nottingham but having managed the issue since 2019, she is wary about the impact too much tennis and a change of surfaces will have.
“I’m sorry I can’t make it to Eastbourne this year to play in front of my home crowd, but I can’t wait to play in front of you all next year,” said the world no 30 who has twice reached the Eastbourne semi-finals.
Heather Watson is the last Brit standing in WTA action this week, she will take on third seed Donna Vekic in Friday’s Birmingham quarter-finals.
After Konta became the first British woman to win a grass-court singles event in 40 years, Watson will aim to make it two titles in a week as the home favourites gear up for this year’s Wimbledon.
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