For someone who just had a cortisone shot in his arm, Andy Murray sure put up a valiant fight Saturday in a losing effort to Rafael Nadal in the Monte Carlo semifinals. After two very tough sets, Nadal pulled away in the third to take the match 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 and advance to the final.
Nadal’s victory lifts his win streak at the tournament to an incredible 38 and it puts him a win shy of a seventh straight Monte Carlo title. But the focus Saturday has to be on Murray after not winning a match for two months, gets stuck with a cortisone shot 30 minutes before the start and plays a heck of a match.
After a delay and some ruminations about a retirement, Murray, who apparently injured the elbow in his win over Gil, finally took the court and gave the clay king all he could handle and then some for two sets.
“I thought it was a good match,” Murray said. “I would have liked to have done better. I think I can play better. Obviously it’s good to know you’re able to play at a similar level to what he does on the clay. To win against him, you need to be able to do that for three and a half hours, four hours. He’s the best player in the world for a reason.
“It’s good to be close to him, but I want to try to play better than that. I’ll need to, if I want to beat him, because he’s going to improve the next few weeks for sure the more he plays on clay.”
I have to credit Murray, he really went after Nadal and used the dropshop variety effectively. Nadal, however, was just too tough for the Scot in the end.
“For sure [it] is a fantastic victory for me against a very difficult opponent,” said Nadal. “So is a dream for me be in the final here another time in Monte Carlo. [To] start the clay-court season being in the final is very good for me. Everything is positive on the result.”
For Murray, he’ll have an MRI on Sunday to see what’s wrong with the elbow.
“I didn’t know up until 5 past 3:00 whether I was going to play or not,” Murray said. “I had a cortisone injection, whatever, local anesthetic in my elbow before the match. I never had any problems with my elbow before. Yesterday, the beginning of the second set, I felt something. Managed to play through it. It was sort of on the inside. Then this morning, was hitting, warming up fine. Went to hit some serves; I couldn’t serve. The thing as well, I didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t until 20 past 2:00 I saw the doctor. Did an ultrasound scan at maybe 1:30 with the substitute doctor who said he couldn’t see anything. Then the main doctor came, checked it. He said what it was. Had the decision at 2:35 to have the injection. I went to practice at 3:00. I went out to see if I could play. You know, my elbow was numb, so I didn’t feel anything. And then I don’t know whether it wore off or what, but it was probably pretty much 2 hours, 40 minutes into the match when I felt it. So it was not like it was there throughout. So I’m happy that I gave it my best, but I think I can do better. Yeah, it was disappointing because I felt like I was playing well. So have to see how it feels tomorrow and what I do from here.”
In the Sunday finale, Nadal will meet his countryman David Ferrer who easily took care of Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2. It’s not often I get to toot my horn but a certain someone picked this exact final a week ago. Guess who?
As for the match, Nadal leads the series against Ferrer 11-4 and 8-1 on clay (8 straight). Of course we remember their most recent meeting at the Australian Open quarterfinals when Nadal injured himself early on and was unable to give it his best in a losing effort.
Ferrer, though, does have few things going for himself. He’s fresh, he’s been playing well (he’s lost just 17 games this week), he loves the clay and he’s beaten Nadal before. And maybe after playing three hours in the Murray win, Nadal’s not at full strength for the final. We’ve seen that pattern played out before with Rafa: tough 3-set match, bad result the next day (10 London, 09 Madrid come to mind).
“I’m very pleased to be in the finals,” said Ferrer. “It can be either Rome or Monte Carlo. I’m very pleased to be in a final of a Masters 1000. I was once in Rome, and I want to do that again. I had hoped that I would feel so well [on clay]. I’m full of confidence. I feel good physically, and also with my tennis. I hope I’ll keep going.”
But Rafa’s a perfect 8-0 against his fellow Armada members in tournament finals and I don’t think he loses for a second straight time to Ferrer.
“[David] had a fantastic start of the season,” Nadal said. “He didn’t lose yet on clay yet this year. He won in Acapulco and is in the final here. He beat me in Australia. He’s very dangerous, no? Very difficult match going to be. I have to play very well. I gonna try.”
Match time tomorrow is 8:15 am ET. Tennis Channel has live coverage.
SUNDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 2:15 pm
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs J Chela (ARG) / B Soares (BRA)
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