ATP World Tour Finals: Nadal sets up Federer O2 clash
Rafael Nadal battled through three hours of scintillating tennis to prevail against Andy Murray 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 7-6 (8-6) and set up a clash with Roger Federer in Sunday’s final in London.
A series of brutal rallies, some fine shot making and determination from both players made for a classic encounter. Murray, who despite losing the match won five more points than Nadal, said: “It was a great match. I played one bad game the whole match.
“Today is the reason why I play tennis. It’s nice to be involved in matches like that but it’s not nice losing them. But I think the match today is how I want to play all the time.”
And the world No5 spoke glowingly of Nadal. “I just love playing against him,” he said. “For me, as a sportsman, I don’t know if there’s been many better than him ever in terms of the way he conducts himself.”
Nadal was delighted with his performance post-match. He said: “Today I played one of the finest matches of my career.
“It’s a big emotion this afternoon. You know how tough it was for me last year. Being in the final is a dream.”
Nadal failed to capitalise on a match point at 5-3 in the third set and Murray broke back to level at 5-5 in the third. “It was a difficult position for me,” said Nadal. “Andy came back well. He had an amazing passing shot.
“I want to congratulate Andy for his attitude. Don’t put pressure on him, he’s going to win a lot of Grand Slams in my opinion.”
Both players unleashed heavy groundstrokes and served astonishingly well from the outset – Murray hit 20 aces and 53 winners over the course of the afternoon.
A close first set went to a tie-break and Nadal whipped a selection of unstoppable shots during some mammoth rallies to emerge victorious.
Murray was clearly looking to hit the lines and went for broke against the top seed. The Scot’s body language was positive, energetic and purposeful as the British No1 began to claw his way back into the match.
Locked at 3-3 in the second Murray took the initiative and broke the Spaniard’s serve. Murray’s heavy, flat hitting pinned Nadal to the baseline and on his fourth attempt he grabbed the break. The Scot then continued to attack, hitting the ball early on the rise to take the set 6-3.
But Murray was broken after a sloppy service game at 1-1 in the third when he appeared to run out of ideas, overusing the drop shot and failing to execute a serve volley.
However, the Scot was up for the challenge and broke back in game nine by hitting a series of perfect returns and scorching winners to the delight of the home crowd.
After three hours of gruelling tennis the match went to a third set tie-break. Murray burst into lead 3-0 with some thunderous ground strokes but Nadal replied sensationally to force Murray into the errors.
Gridlocked at 6-6 Murray shot inches wide with a pass and Nadal was able to close out the match at the third time of asking 8-6 in the tie-break.
Nadal now sets his sights on Sunday’s final with Roger Federer in what promises to be a spectacular encounter.
Federer was in devastating form as he swept Novak Djokovic aside 6-1 6-4 in another high quality affair on Saturday night.
The Swiss maestro breezed through the opening set as Djokovic failed to deal with Federer’s pinpoint accuracy.
However, the Serb responded superbly in the second set, breaking Federer at the first attempt with a sensational return winner to lead 3-0.
But Federer upped his game to pin Djokovic behind the baseline and rattle off a procession of winners.
The world No2 eventually capitalised on his dominance in the rallies to break back at 4-4 – and duly served out the match to set up the final everybody wanted to see.