NEW YORK — After one set, Andy Murray slammed his racket onto the court, then mangled it once he reached his chair on the sideline. After the second, he gestured to his coach, Ivan Lendl, and let out a frustrated scream.
Stanislas Wawrinka had the U.S. Open defending champion in knots all day, and when the surprisingly less-than-competitive match was finished Thursday, Murray was a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 loser in the quarterfinals.
"(Wawrinka) just played great," Murray said. "I would have like to have played a little bit better."
Wawrinka, seeded ninth, made his first Grand Slam semifinal. "It wasn't easy," said Wawrinka, who didn't face a break point over his 14 service games. "It was very windy. To get that first set though, everything seemed better."
Wawrinka plays No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who used his typical relentless defense to reach the semifinals for the seventh straight year, beating No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0.
Murray's loss ended a stay in New York during which the third seed never got completely comfortable — not when he had to wait until the first Wednesday to begin defense of his title, not when he struggled in a four-set victory over Denis Istomen in the fourth round and not Thursday.
"When it's breezy conditions, I think everyone takes a bit of time to feel comfortable on the court," Murray said. "But I don't think I was playing poorly. I got to the quarterfinals of a Slam, which isn't easy."
Djokovic plays in the final four for the 14th Grand Slam in a row. That's the second-longest streak in history, trailing Roger Federer's 23. "I've been always trying to play my best tennis at Grand Slams," the 2011 Open champion said.
Serena still the favorite: Serena Williams is two wins away from her second consecutive Open championship and fifth in all. Having dropped a total of 13 games through five matches — including a 6-0, 6-0 victory in the quarterfinals — she plays today against No. 5 Li Na, the 2011 French Open winner, in the semifinals.
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and last year's runnerup in New York, meets 83rd-ranked Flavia Pennetta in the other semi.
Williams has played in 23 previous major semifinals, more than twice the 10 total of the other three semifinalists. Never satisfied, she came to the Open with a new approach: She and coach Patrick Mouratoglou find something new to focus on each match. It might be something as straightforward as a target number of forehand winners.
"Just this tournament, I started setting different goals for myself, and it's been really working for me," Williams said.
Williams plays two matches today. After her semi, she and sister Venus face Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the doubles semifinals. The Williamses advanced by knocking out top seeds Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani 6-3, 6-1 Thursday.
Bryans fall short: Trying to become the second men's doubles team to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek in the semis.