Andy Murray succumbed to a second-round exit at the US Open as he was beaten in four sets by Fernando Verdasco.
The former world No 1, champion in 2012, came into the match with a 13-1 head-to-head record against the Spaniard but lost 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4 on another stifling hot day in New York.
Murray, who celebrated his first win at a Grand Slam for 13 months against James Duckworth on Monday, started brightly but a physical Verdasco proved too strong over an absorbing three hours and 23 minutes.
“It was tough of course to close the match but I think with Andy it’s always tough – not to close it just to play every point because he’s an unbelievable fighter,” Verdasco, who secured his first win over Murray since the 2009 Australian Open, said.
“Even with all the surgery and not 100% physically he’s a fighter.”
The opening set, played amid temperatures in the mid-30s, saw a mix of brilliance from the back of the court and costly unforced errors as both players had their serve broken twice inside the opening seven games.
Murray saw a set-point chance vanish as Verdasco found an ace before a double fault on break point in the next game handed the Spaniard the opportunity to serve out which he took.
The second set followed a similar pattern with Murray getting the better of three successive breaks of serves as he raised his intensity to level up the match.
But Verdasco took advantage of a lack of first serves from Murray to break at the outset of the third set. Murray fell a double break behind and, despite recovering one, was unable to prevent the 31st seed from serving out to move ahead.
After both players returned from a 10-minute break with the extreme heat policy in place, Murray went in search of an early fourth-set break but 34-year-old Verdasco proved a durable opponent and picked his moment to strike in the seventh game.
A labouring Murray fought hard to ask questions of Verdasco as the quality remained high from both sides of the net. The Scot underlined his fighting qualities to threaten a break but was unable to take advantage of five break-point chances in a dramatic final game that lasted 12 minutes.
Verdasco will face another former champion in Juan Martin del Potro in the third round on Friday after the Argentine powered past American Denis Kudla 6-3 6-1 7-6 (7-4).
Del Potro, who won at Flushing Meadows in 2009, fired 20 aces and didn’t face a break point against the world No 72.