Stunned Murray searches for answers
5:49pm Wednesday 2nd July 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Andy Murray vowed to work harder than ever after a chastening loss to Grigor Dimitrov ended his Wimbledon title defence in the quarter-finals.
The third seed had hardly put a foot wrong in his first four matches but he made a bad start and never found anything like his best form.
Dimitrov took full advantage, his game as good as Murray's was poor, and the Bulgarian showed his growing maturity to take control in the decisive moments at the end of the second set and win 6-1 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.
While Dimitrov moves through to his first grand slam semi-final against Novak Djokovic on Friday, Murray must begin the inquest into what went wrong.
The worrying thing for the Scot is it is becoming a trend.
His break from the game to undergo back surgery is undoubtedly a factor but, since the ultimate high of beating Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon 12 months ago, Murray has not beaten a top-10 player or reached a final.
In the last four grand slams, he has lost three times in the quarter-finals and once in the semi-finals and has managed to take just one set in all those matches.
This loss and his defeat by Stan Wawrinka at the US Open were particularly disappointing and Murray admitted he must find the motivation to get back to the top of his game.
The 27-year-old said: "I need to go away and make a lot of improvements in my game. I've lost a couple of matches in the last few slams where I've lost in straight sets and played poorly.
"So I need to have a think about things, what are the things I need to improve, and get myself in better shape and work even harder. Because everyone's starting to get better. The younger guys are now obviously becoming more mature and improving all the time.
"I don't feel like I have improved so much since Wimbledon last year, I think I've played some very good tennis but also some ordinary stuff at times.
"But if I'm going to play better tennis than I am just now, the only way to do that is by working even harder than I have before. Getting in the gym, getting stronger, becoming physically better.
"The only way that I can improve is by getting myself on the practice court and working harder than I have done in the last 12 months. Hopefully that will help.
"I still played some very good tennis this tournament. I've had a good run here at Wimbledon over the last few years. Obviously it's disappointing for it to end like that.
"But now we'll see whether I can come back stronger and come back better. No one knows, but I'm going to try.
"I still want to try to win more. I need to think forward and not backwards, and getting motivation from somewhere to try to get back to the top of my game."
The day might have turned out very differently had Murray taken a break point in the first game, but he missed it and from the moment Dimitrov broke for 3-1 the champion was in trouble.
His big opportunity came at the end of the second set when Dimitrov had his first lapse in allowing Murray to break back for 4-4.
But the Bulgarian held serve to force a tie-break and won the final three points with exemplary play.
Murray recovered from two sets down to win last year's quarter-final against Fernando Verdasco but a repeat never looked on the cards and his reign ended with a whimper as he lost the final four games.
Murray managed a bow to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the Royal Box and a wave to the crowd, who cheered their fallen hero.
"I started the match badly and I think that gave him confidence," said Murray.
"I should have done a better job of making it tougher for him. Also, when I got back into the second set, that was my opportunity there. He was the better player from start to finish."
Murray looked nervous and leaden-footed but he insisted expectation was not a factor in his performance.
"I handled the pressure fine," he said.
"I started the tournament well. I was playing good tennis. Today was a bad day from my side. I made many mistakes and then started going for too much and taking chances that weren't really there.
"It was a tough day all around."
Murray's ranking will take a big hit, dropping from five to at best 10, while he must also decide whether to continue his coaching partnership with Amelie Mauresmo.
The pair linked up initially just for the grass-court season but it has certainly appeared from the outside that they have gelled well and Murray said he would like to continue.
"We'll sit down and chat about that maybe tomorrow or in a few days," he said. "But it has to come from both sides.
"I've really enjoyed the last couple of weeks. I've found it good fun. I found it calming. Tactically I feel like the chats have been good. Also the direction that I would like my tennis to go in.
"So I hope so, but we'll need to sit down and chat."
Dimitrov sensed in the warm-up that Murray was not hitting the ball well and felt the Scot's lack of tight matches may have counted against him.
"In a way that gave me a bit of an advantage," the 11th seed said.
"He didn't face, I think, any difficulties throughout his previous matches. It was kind of unknown for him, the pressure, coming into those first sets.
"I knew I had that under my belt. It wasn't an easy match for both of us. As soon as we hit the first ball on the court I felt something was just a little different. I just had to go with the flow."
The 23-year-old, who will pass Murray in the rankings whatever happens on Friday, is determined not to get too excited because he has his sights set on the main prize.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "I'm proud of what I did.
"But it's something that I've worked for, to get onto that stage, come out and switch to another gear. It's a quarter-final match, playing against the defending champion, against a gentleman like Andy. That adds a lot."