Down 5-2 in the first set to defending champion Andy Murray today in the Madrid Masters semifinal, Rafael Nadal had an awakening. Unfortunately, he couldn’t sustain it. Nadal, the 4-time Madrid champion and pride of Spain, roared back to even things at 5-5. But just when the crowd was back into what was a fairly uneven match, Murray held serve then broke Nadal again to take the opener.
Nadal couldn’t up his game in the second and Murray held on for a 7-5, 6-4 win. It was the second straight year Murray has beaten Nadal on the biggest court in all of Spain.
“I think I did well,” Murray said. “I felt like I was aggressive throughout. When I had to defend, I did that well, so it was good.
“It’s big. Obviously it’s not easy. Not loads of players have won against Rafa on clay throughout his career,” Murray added. “Very pleased to have beaten him this year. Big, big step for me from where I was four or five weeks ago. I’m going back in the right direction again.”
It was far from the best tennis, but anytime you beat Nadal on clay it’s a great win especially for Murray who hadn’t had a Top 10 win since Davis Cup two months ago. So he is headed in the right direction on one of his favorite courts.
For Nadal, his 13-match win streak is over. But at least he had that streak. So I guess he and his fans will take. Plus, it is Madrid where there is altitude, conditions very unlike Paris.
“In general, he was a little bit better than me,” Nadal said. “We have to congratulate him for his victory and recognise that he played better than me in the important moments.”
And Murray did. Nadal finished just 2/13 on break chances. That inexplicable. It would have been a prime chance for revenge, and watching Nadal, we again saw some poor misses and many short balls which allowed Murray to pounce.
Still, he’s playing better at least.
“I think I had another positive week,” Nadal said. “I made it to the semi-finals. I’ve been very consistent every week. This is good news. Today, mentally I was okay. I fought a lot until the end. I tried to look for solutions and I think I did that, but it wasn’t enough.
“I’m competitive. I’m second in the [Emirates ATP Race To London] because I’m competing. But the same way I lost, if you look at what happened out there, I could have won. You have to criticise yourself to be able to do things better. You have to criticise yourself to get better and better.
“I’m on a positive path. I hope to continue on this path. I feel happy competing. I’m comfortable. Also when I train, I train with a lot of joy to continue going this way.”
Awaiting in the final is the familiar face of Novak Djokovic. The world No. 1 failed to close out a 6-3, 5-3, 40-0 lead. Nishikori scratched out a hold then had 15-30 in Djokovic’s next service game, but the Serb was too strong eventually holding off the pesky Nishikori 6-3, 7-6(4).
After ripping through the field this week – albeit a good draw – Djokovic was again in full cruise control until incredibly blowing four match points in that ninth game of the second set, his first loss of service of the event.
“It wasn’t easy to play in these very windy conditions, but overall I’m very pleased,” Djokovic said.
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