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- Dubai 05:28 06:47 12:13 15:10 17:33 18:51
Andy Murray's February torment deepened on Thursday when he lost 6-1 6-3 to 18-year-old Croatian tyro Borna Coric in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
This month the world number three has lost the Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic and then failed to live up to his top seed billing in Rotterdam as he fell by the wayside in the quarter-finals.
Murray arrived in Dubai temporarily shorn of his coach Amelie Mauresmo before struggling to find practice partners. The lack of preparation may have led to his downfall at the Aviation Club on Thursday.
"I made way too many mistakes from the beginning of the match right through to the end; early in rallies, (I was) rushing points," the Briton told reporters.
"(It was) quite similar to the match I played against (Gilles) Simon in Rotterdam which is disappointing."
Top seed Djokovic steamed into the last four with a 6-1 6-1 win over Marsel Ilhan of Turkey and Roger Federer eased through when Richard Gasquet retired after losing the first set 6-1 but Murray was completely outplayed.
The Scot lost three successive service games to concede the first set 6-1.
Coric, who made the main draw as a lucky loser, broke for a decisive 4-2 lead in the second set before serving out for the match.
"He doesn't have any weak spots that you can actually say I need to play on his backhand or on his forehand," said Coric.
“I was just trying to maintain the level and stay in the rally as long as I can, which I was doing really good, you know. I was also running very good,” said Coric, who faced defeat in the previous round as Marcos Baghdatis served for the match at 5-3 in the second set and then led by two breaks of serve in the third.
“I think I was really lucky with Kohlschreiber pulling out. That's the life. Sometimes you're going to get lucky. Maybe next tournament I will have match point and I'm not going to take it. That's tennis. One week you gonna play good, you gonna be lucky, and it's those kind of days for you to take opportunities.”
Last year Coric beat Rafael Nadal in Basel, and caught the eye of Djokovic, who has since practised with him both in Australia and Dubai.
“I try to help him because I see, in a way, myself through him,” said Djokovic. “I've never felt that way when I practice with somebody as I felt with him. It's like playing myself. Very similar game. Great fighting spirit, disciplined, focused, committed, confident, very young but confident, which is important.”
Murray failed to earn a single break point against Coric, the Croat winning 88 and 84 percent of points on his first and second serves respectively, while the Zagreb native also broke four times.
The Scot won only five points on Coric's serve in the entire match.
The Croat, who last year became the youngest player to crack the top 100 since Rafa Nadal burst through in 2003, had failed to get past the second round in any of his five previous tournaments this year.
But the 84th-ranked player will be eager to build on his victory over Murray when he faces 17-times grand slam winner Federer in Friday's semi-finals.
Second seed Federer is chasing an unprecedented seventh Dubai title and moved into the last four when Frenchman Gasquet had to pull out with lower back pain having lost the first set.
Djokovic ended the run of Turkish qualifier Marsel Ilhan, winning 6-1 6-1. The opening set was over in 20 minutes, but Djokovic had to fight off three break points to hold for 1-1 in the second before once again taking control.
“He lacks a little bit of experience and confidence on being in the big stadium. That's where I used my opportunity from the start,” said Djokovic. “I made double break, and I felt like I was in control of the match. I didn't allow him to get into the groove. So it was a good performance.”
Djokovic next faces Czech Tomas Berdych who beat Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3 4-6 6-2.
“I think especially in the second set, end of the second set, he come up with some great shots,” said Berdych. “But that's how it is. You know, you have to know how to deal with those situations. Again, it's very good that I handled the third set how I did, two breaks.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, continues until February 28.
A limited number of tickets are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.
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