Nadal Surges Past Murray For 60th Win Of Season
The last time they faced off, Andy Murray got the better of Rafael Nadal on the Spaniard's home soil in Madrid. Nadal returned the favour on Wednesday with a 6-4, 6-1 win in Group Ilie Nastase action at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
"It is an important victory, because that put me in a good position to try to be in the semi-finals, and at the same time I have had a big day against a great player on a tough surface," said Nadal. "I'm just happy the way that I played today, happy the way I was working. Just another step for me be able to play at that level, against such a great player, is good news. Happy for that. Just want to try to keep working the same way to keep confirming that I am in the completely right direction."
With John McEnroe, Lleyton Hewitt, Boris Becker and Mats Wilander looking on, Murray snatched the immediate initiative in breaking to 15 in the first game. Nadal failed to convert a first serve in the opener, but the Manacor native would pull level in the next game, refusing to allow Murray to consolidate the break. A slew of wayward groundstrokes would put the Scot in a hole while serving in both the sixth and eighth games, facing a combined five break points. Nadal's attacking mentality was evident, stepping inside the baseline and seeking to dictate with his forehand, but the Spaniard failed to convert and swing momentum to his side of the net. Murray would find himself in trouble once again two games later, staring down a 0/40 deficit. This time, Nadal would not let the opportunity slip, capturing the first set after 57 minutes.
infosys ATP Insights show that Nadal served into Murray's body 65 percent of the time in the Ad court. See more Infosys ATP Insights
Nadal pulled away immediately in the second set. Murray struck nine unforced errors through the opening three games, as Nadal reeled off 10 of 11 points to break for 2-0 and consolidate his advantage. It would be one-way traffic from then on, grabbing a second break for 5-1 and closing out the win after 91 minutes. He fired 12 winners and benefitted from 29 Murray unforced errors.
The World No. 5 earned his 60th match win of the year and will look to cap a strong finish to the season with a fifth semi-final berth in seven trips to the Final Showdown. Sitting at 2-0 in Group Ilie Nastase, he awaits the result of the second singles match of the day at The O2, between Stan Wawrinka and David Ferrer. Nadal would advance with a Wawrinka victory or a Ferrer win in three sets.
Murray's quest to secure his first year-end World No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings will wait another day, as he also continues his bid for a first title in eight season finale appearances. The Scot, who remains at 69 match wins for the season, would finish as the second-ranked player with either a Roger Federer loss at any point of the tournament or victory on Friday against Wawrinka. At 1-1, he is alive in Round Robin play, having defeated David Ferrer in straight sets on Monday.
"He was able to dictate most of the points and he was hitting the ball harder than he was at the beginning of the match," said Murray. "I was starting to drop the ball shorter. Obviously when he's inside the court, he's extremely, extremely good. He can move his forehand around very well. He can use all of the angles on the court and make you do a lot of moving.
"He's clearly playing better tennis now than a few months ago. Also I didn't help myself out there today. I served extremely low percentage, maybe lowest percentage I served the whole year in any match. It was like the low 40s and in the second set like 35 per cent. That's not good enough against someone as good as Rafa."
Nadal now owns a 16-6 record in the FedEx ATP Head2Head with this being their first hard-court clash since the 2011 Tokyo final, won by Murray. The Scot claimed their lone meeting this year in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in Madrid.