Andy Murray will find himself ranked world No.8 on Monday - his lowest placing in six years - after his hopes of defending his Miami Masters title were ended by old foe Novak Djokovic in a controversial quarter-final last night.

The Scot's 7-5, 6-3 defeat by the world No.2 will have left Murray with mixed feelings; frustration that he let slip a good chance of another victory over the Serb but also able to reflect on a boost to his morale going into a period of the season in which he has few ranking points to defend.

"If you're being realistic, it's not too far from where I want to be," said Murray, having wasted little time in heading into press after his defeat.

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After a difficult fortnight, during which he and Ivan Lendl ended their relationship after just over two years, Murray showed more signs that he is finding his form, six months after having back surgery.

Having saved break points in the fourth game, Murray more than held his own and when they reached 5-5, the Scot had a golden chance to break. Instead he put a forehand into the net.

That was Djokovic's chance to regroup and the Serb, who won in Indian Wells two weeks ago, broke Murray in the next game, albeit with no little controversy. Ten months after he was penalised for reaching over the net to hit the ball at a crucial stage in his semi-final against Rafa Nadal at the French Open, Djokovic did the same again, only for his actions to go unpunished.

Murray was incensed, beseeching the umpire to see common sense, not least because it was replayed on the big screen in the stadium at Crandon Park. "You are having a laugh man, on the replay his racket is over the net,'' Murray told the umpire, before making three consecutive errors to hand Djokovic the set.

The careers of both players have run almost parallel, ever since they first broke through to the professional ranks. Last year's Wimbledon final will always rank as Murray's finest moment and he knows he can get the better of the Serb when he is on his game.

That would seem pertinent when he broke to lead 3-2 in the second, with the match looking as though it might extend to three sets. However, Murray then lost his way and Djokovic sensed his chance once more.

After breaking back for 3-3, the Serb held and Murray then gifted him another break for 5-3 with an errant backhand. The world No.2 then showed no nerves as he served out to love, clinching victory with a superb forehand to end Murray's reign as champion, having won the last 12 points in a row.

Murray was left to rue what might have been but must now pick himself up quickly as Britain head to Italy for a Davis Cup quarter-final, held in the hotbed of Naples.

That will be his last outing on clay until early May when he plays back-to-back Masters Series events in Madrid and Rome, having chosen not to play in Monte Carlo, the only non-mandatory Masters Series event.

Murray has long said he enjoys playing on clay and Lendl, who watched Murray's efforts in Miami with a more relaxed nature than when he was his coach, believes the Scot can win the French Open.

More importantly, though, Murray has very few ranking points to defend in the next two months - specifically he has 280 to defend - so if his back is up to it, he will fancy his chances of climbing back towards the top four. More importantly, he will be looking to build on his efforts in Miami as he prepares for the defence of his Wimbledon title this summer.

There was enough about Murray's performances, against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the previous round and then against Djokovic, to suggest that he will arrive at SW19 in a confident mood. That will not help him shrug off the defeat by Djokovic last night but having overcome back surgery and dealt with the loss of Lendl, Murray knows is progressing slowly.

That may include finding a coach to replace Lendl - Murray wants to have somebody in place by the time he arrives in Roland Garros if he can - but he will also be conscious that rushing into the wrong appointment is a mistake not worth making.

Whoever is chosen to follow Lendl has big shoes to fill, but Murray's momentum is building and clay may just be the making of his efforts over the next six months.

There was a stirring result in the women's draw when Slovak Dominika Cibulkova fought off three match points to claim a 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland to reach the last four. Trailing 5-4 in the second set and serving to keep her tournament hopes alive, 10th-seed Cibulkova fended off three match points before winning the set in a tiebreak.

She now meets the winner of last night's match between the world No.2 Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki.