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, then his cool when the stadium sound system interrupted a break point.

“It was too exciting on the court, but I tried to stay calm,” said Nishikori.

Sixth seed Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up in New York, goes on to face Stan Wawrinka who beat Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Nishikori added: “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.

He was Australian and French Open runner-up before winning Wimbledon.

Murray complained to referee Wayne McKewen after the sound system malfunction
Murray complained to referee Wayne McKewen after the sound system malfunction

Nishikori holds his nerve in decider

Murray began in terrific form, overpowering Nishikori in a 35-minute first set, but he 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 he looked to have finally taken control when the Scot took the next two games.

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-us open
Murray was furious after dropping serve for the ninth time in the final set

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.

“They stopped the point and I was just curious why that was and that was it,” Murray said. “Did it affect me? Definitely.”

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.