PARIS (Reuters) - Andy Murray blamed a mid-match lapse for a 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1 defeat by Stan Wawrinka in the French Open semi-finals on Friday -- his eighth defeat in nine matches against top-five ranked players in grand slams.
The British world number one lost seven games in a row from leading 3-2 in the second set, having snatched the opener in a tense tiebreak, and though he recovered to move two sets to one ahead, Wawrinka roared back to claim victory.
His only win against one of his biggest rivals at a slam since beating Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final came in Paris last year when he edged out Wawrinka in the semis.
To Murray's credit he was subjected to a more than four-hour barrage by third seed Wawrinka who threw the kitchen sink at his fellow three-times grand slam champion, and only in the fifth set when his legs began to buckle did he crumble.
"I lost my way a little bit in that period," Murray said of the seven-game run that gave Wawrinka renewed vigour.
"Over four hours, four-and-a-half hours, there are going to be periods in the match where you're not hitting the ball as well and your opponent is going to be playing well.
"And you need to try and ride out the storm a little bit. I didn't do that, that period of the match, for whatever reason."
Murray endured a disappointing claycourt season leading into Roland Garros -- suffering early defeats in Madrid and Rome -- but rediscovered his verve in Paris where his run included victories over Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori.
Wawrinka proved a far more dangerous beast though, striking 87 winners as he twice battled back from a one-set deficit to avenge his defeat by Murray a year ago.
Murray said he will move on to the grasscourt season in good heart, despite missing out on a 12th grand slam final.
"I'm proud of the tournament I had. I did well considering. I was one tiebreak away from getting to the final when I came in really struggling. So I have to be proud of that," he said.
"Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match. A lot of long points. When you haven't been playing loads, over four, four-and-a-half hours, that can catch up a little bit."
Murray got within four points of victory in the fourth set but a misjudged dropshot helped Wawrinka grab the tiebreak and at the same time break Murray's resistance.
"Physically I didn't feel my best at the end. It is more like I didn't have enough weight on my shot at the end of the
match to put him under any real pressure," Murray, who covered 4.5km in heart-pumping sprints throughout the encounter, said.
He will now focus on trying to defend his Wimbledon title and the number one ranking in the second part of the season.
"I do feel like having an event like this can give me a boost, and hopefully have a strong grasscourt season and try to understand what worked well this event and what worked well in the sort of 10 days in the build-up," he explained.
"Hopefully I finish the year strong."
Reporting by Julien Pretot,; Editing by Martyn Herman and Pritha Sarkar