TOKYO - U.S. Open champion Andy Murray was stunned by Milos Raonic 6-3 6-7 7-6 in the semi-finals of the Japan Open on Saturday, ending the Briton's defence of his Tokyo title.
Murray's frustration boiled over on several occasions, the Olympic champion smashing another racquet and yelling furiously at himself as Raonic saved two match points.
"He started the match well and I was slow to get off the mark," the world number three told reporters. "There was always going to be a bit of residue from the last few months."
Murray was broken by the Canadian in the first game and a booming forehand by Raonic on his first set point forced the top seed into a shanked backhand which flew high into the crowd.
The Scot faced break points in the second set and angrily trashed his racquet for the second match in a row as sixth seed Raonic continued to blast winners past him.
But Murray, who also reached this year's Wimbledon final, dug in to win the tiebreak 7-5 with a fizzing backhand return onto the laces of Raonic on his first bite at the cherry.
Raonic, who has been taking rickshaw rides around ancient Tokyo and taking a keen interest in samurai swords, twice gifted Murray match points with double-faults at 5-6 in the decider.
Both times his serve bailed him out.
"He played well behind his first serve," said Murray, who had thrashed Raonic 6-4 6-4 6-2 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open last month. "That made it tough for me."
Raonic, dressed like a throwback with 1970s-style striped shirt and headband, clinched victory with another vicious serve Murray could only slam long after two hours, 46 minutes.
Raonic, who fired down 13 aces, will face either local favourite Kei Nishikori or Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in Sunday's final of the $1.28 million hardcourt tournament. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)