Canada's Milos Raonic finally ran out of upsets at the Australian Open.
The big serving qualifier's magical run came to an end Monday after he crashed out in the fourth round with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 defeat to No. 7 seed David Ferrer.
After upsetting two ranked opponents and taking the first set with Ferrer, the 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., began to tire against the feisty Spaniard.
"My mind was ready to fight for every point, but the legs weren't following as much," Raonic said afterwards, "and neither was the arm."
Aiming to become the first Canadian man to reach the quarter-finals at a major, Raonic committed 68 unforced errors compared to Ferrer's 10.
Despite the loss, his surprising run equalled Daniel Nestor's showing at Wimbledon in 1999 and Martin Laurendeau's last-16 performance at the 1988 U.S. Open.
"There's a lot to learn from today and from the whole two-week experience," said Raonic, who fired just 15 aces in missing a chance to become the first male qualifier to make the quarters in Melbourne since Goran Ivanisevic in 1989.
"The biggest thing is I'm not that far away from this level on a week-to-week basis. This is a great motivational thing for the work I've done."
In only his second major, Raonic found himself in uncharted territory against the Spaniard, a 10-time tour winner.
After claiming the opening set, the lanky Raonic went down two sets to one and was unable to mount a comeback in the fourth. The 28-year-old Ferrer broke to start the set and closed it out on the first match point as Raonic fired a backhand wide.
"It really came down to me, how much I could dictate play. I felt a little bit of a drop in the second set," Raonic said. "Then the third set I just ended up getting a bit unlucky.
"I had a few opportunities, but just got a bit unlucky. There's really not too much negative from it."
Raonic upset No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny in the third round for his first win over a top-10 opponent, firing 31 aces. He also beat No. 22 Michael Llodra in the second round thanks to 21 aces.
The Canadian started off strong in the first set against Ferrer with a love game and managed the only break for a 5-4 lead.
He served out the set as his big serve started to find its rhythm.
But Raonic dropped serve for the first time to trail 4-2 in the second after saving two break points. Ferrer also got Raonic into trouble in the eighth game of the set. Raonic saved three set points before hitting an overhead shot long and then belting a return into the net as Ferrer levelled the match.
Raonic, who was born in Montenegro and moved to Canada with his family at the age of three, began to fade in the third. He paid the price for missing on four break points over two games as Ferrer secured a two sets to one lead.
Despite the loss, Raonic - ranked 152nd in the world coming into the tournament - is expected to move into the top-100.
"The biggest thing is my level's there. It's not that far away," he said. "It's not really making a next step, it's making this level a week in and week out thing."
Raonic plans to compete in more tournaments in the coming months in hopes of moving up in the rankings even further.
"I feel like I can go in and do a lot of damage and keep improving my ranking a lot. I'm going to go out there and be prepared and prepare myself for each week accordingly and do as much as I can to win."
NOTES: Three Canadian women have reached the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam in the open era, most recently Patricia Hy-Boulais at the 1992 U.S. Open. ... Raonic's win-loss record on the elite tour coming into the Australian Open was 6-7, with no titles. ... Raonic moved to Barcelona last November to train with coach Galo Blanco. ... His uncle is the former vice-premier of Montenegro.
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