ANDY MURRAY crashed out of the Australian Open as he was outplayed by Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.
The five-time finalist in Melbourne Park could not find the answers to deal with the world No120.
Daniel, 28, broke in the ninth game of a tense third set and closed it out to secure a 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory.
Murray came into the match knowing a 696th win of his career would take him back into the world’s top 100.
Despite sizing up at 6ft 3ins, Daniel cuts a diminutive figure on the court.
But his tennis was anything but diminutive, playing lights-out stuff from the outset – and he kept it going.
The Japanese star is a pure striker of the ball.
And that clean hitting saw him break the Brit in just his second service game that lasted a whopping 13 minutes, sealing it after a 26-shot rally.
Murray recovered but gifted another break when he doubled faulted for 4-3, and consistent Daniel saw out the first set with an ace.
The qualifier simply refused to miss, making just seven unforced errors in an emphatic opener.
Former world No1 Murray has gone for a bigger racket this season with a bigger sweet spot.
But as he struggled to find it, Daniel certainly found his, carrying on where he left off with another early break in the second.
That was all he needed, saving all four break points in the set and keeping his composure throughout with 19 winners and seven unforced errors to wrap it up on serve.
Murray, off the back of a four-hour marathon on Tuesday, looked flat and did not help himself with 18 unforced errors in the second.
Even then, few would dare write Murray off completely – especially after he earned an immediate break in the third set.
But Daniel got it back on serve and then fended off more break points as both players recognised the significance of the early stages in the third set.
The British battler kept himself in contention but the frustration grew when Daniel’s high level refused to falter.
And Daniel got the all-important breakthrough at 4-4 in the third.
Finally Murray’s frustration boiled over and was given a warning after launching his racket to the ground and shouting out in anger.
But Daniel held his nerve with a smart serve and volley to finish it off, booking his place in a Grand Slam third round for the first time in his career.
And he fully, fully deserved it.