NEW YORK — Disappointed.
That was the word Andy Murray used over and over to describe how he felt about his exit from the U.S. Open.
After all, Murray arrived at Flushing Meadows ranked No. 2, owner of a tour-leading 37 wins on hard courts this season — and quite sure he was prepared to win his first Grand Slam title a year after reaching the U.S. Open final.
Instead, he heads home after the fourth round, a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 loser to No. 16 Marin Cilic of Croatia on Tuesday.
“I just struggled today. I played poorly,” Murray said. “I could have been better in pretty much every part of the game, whether it was mental or serve, forehand, backhand, returns.”
Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia also exited the tournament, losing to Max Mirnyi and Israeli Andy Ram 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-0 in the men’s doubles quarter-finals.
Ahead 5-4, Murray wasted two set points.
By the second set, Murray was grimacing while flexing his left wrist, which he acknowledged afterward had been bothering him for about a week. By the third, Murray was moping about the court.
“Regardless of my wrist, I lost the match,” Murray said. “I returned poorly. He served well — and that was really the difference.”
His hopes of becoming the first British man since the 1930s to win a Grand Slam championship will have to be set aside until 2010. The pressure back home for success will only increase, matched by Murray’s self-imposed expectations.
When he wasn’t saying, “I’m obviously very disappointed,” or “I’m going to be disappointed, but I’ll have to go and work on some things,” Murray was talking about being “ready to win a Slam in Australia.”
“Next year I’ve got a very, very good chance of doing it,” Murray said. “I think I’ll be a better player next year than this year, and, you know, hopefully I’ll do that.”
Cilic, meanwhile, advanced to the first major quarter-final of his career.
“I’m feeling tremendously happy,” Cilic said. “Of course, it’s the biggest result for me, so far.”
Next for him is a match against No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro, who beat 2003 French Open champion and U.S. Open finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Cilic versus del Potro will pit two players who are 20, with lanky frames and big serves.
“For sure, if he beat Murray, he’s confident,” said del Potro, who pushed Roger Federer to five sets in the French Open semifinals this year. “It will be very tough for me.”
Murray’s loss, at least for one evening, turned into the talk of a tournament that had been generating very little buzz about the men’s field.
Instead, the focus has been on the women’s event, thanks to the surprising emergence of 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin and the quick comeback of former No. 1 Kim Clijsters.
Oudin plays in the first major quarter-final of her nascent career Wednesday — she obliged autograph-seekers after practising Tuesday — and Clijsters already is into the semifinals, where she will face a Williams for the second time this tournament.
Clijsters beat Venus Williams in the fourth round; now she will take on defending champion Serena Williams, who improved to 23-1 in Grand Slam singles matches this season by beating No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-4, 6-3 Tuesday night.