Nadal Sets Murray Madrid SF
Spaniard holds off Sousa in close contest
The stage is set for a rematch of last year’s final, which saw Murray capture his first clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown after beating Nadal. Since that loss, Nadal has won his past two meetings with Murray, at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and three weeks ago in the semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.
"We know each other very well," said Nadal. "It's a question of playing my best, and if I am playing my best, I hope to have my chances. If not, it will be almost impossible.
"Andy played the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo winning good matches, and was close to beating me in the semi-finals. Last year he won here, so he knows how to play very well here. That's a great level that he's playing.
"He's a player that can win against everybody. I know it's going to be a very hard match for me, but I am going to be fighting."
The 29-year-old Nadal improved to a 13-match winning streak after edging Sousa in a match watched by Real Madrid footballing star, Cristiano Ronaldo.
It took Sousa 37 minutes to register his first game of the match, levelling at 1-1 in the second set, but the Portuguese’s respite was short lived as Nadal looked set to make a decisive move when he engineered break points in the sixth game.
However, as the rain began to fall more heavily in Madrid, a 10-minute delay ensued as the roof was closed on Manolo Santana court and it was Sousa who emerged stronger. The Portuguese saved the three break points he faced in the sixth game, halting Nadal’s momentum, and then took his chance in the 10th game, breaking Nadal to 15 to snatch the second set.
Sousa stayed close with Nadal in the early stages of the third set, but the Spaniard regained the initiative in the eighth game, breaking Sousa before serving out the match in two hours and five minutes.
"I played pretty well in the first set," said Nadal. "Perhaps he made a few errors, but also I think I played with very high intensity in the first set. I was hurting him with my balls and playing long and I was in control of the point most of the time.
"Winning 6-0 a player like Joao in a quarter-final here in Madrid, it just doesn't happen. After that it started raining. The ball was a little bit heavier. I missed a few good opportunities. I had to suffer. I had to fight back and look for a solution. I managed to find a solution and solve it."
Nadal came into Madrid on the back of victories in Monte-Carlo (d. Monfils) and Barcelona (d. Nishikori). This week, he is looking to claim an Open Era record 50th clay-court crown and also his 29th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy.
The Mallorcan is a four-time former champion in Madrid, winning the title once when the event was held on indoor hard court, in 2005 (d. Ljubicic), and three times since the move to clay, in 2010 (d. Federer), 2013 (d. Wawrinka) and 2014 (d. Nishikori).