Nadal overcomes Murray to enter Monte Carlo final
Eight-time winner Rafael Nadal recovered from a set down to beat Britain’s Andy Murray to reach the Monte Carlo Masters final.
Murray broke twice to take the opening set 6-2, but wilted under the Spaniard’s power and accuracy to lose the next two 6-4 6-2.
The win was Nadal’s seventh over Murray in eight meetings on clay and puts him into his 100th ATP World Tour final. He faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils in the final.
Murray beat Nadal for the first time on clay in last year’s Madrid Masters final, but his hopes of being only the third player to earn back-to-back victories over the world number five on the surface were dashed in a brutal two-and-a-half-hour encounter.
It was a match high on quality but also rancour, with both players being irked by some controversial umpiring decisions. The match began bizarrely when Murray won the coin toss, but umpire Damien Dumusois of France asked Nadal if he wanted to serve.
Nadal pointed out the umpire’s error, but Murray graciously asked for it to be re-done, and he won that, too. This time he was asked his preference and elected to serve.
Murray was irked throughout by a lack of action from the umpire over Nadal continually breaking the 25-second rule between serves. The Spaniard was averaging 31 seconds, allowing him more time to recover.
The Scot had begun in carefree fashion and played faultless tennis in a blistering opening set, with his opponent having no answer to his accurate serving and punishing ground strokes. He won the majority of long rallies and regularly using the drop shot to drag the Spaniard around the court.
Nadal could not keep pace with Murray’s physical intensity and earned a rebuke from the umpire when his entourage appeared to offer some courtside coaching. Murray broke to lead 4-2 and then again on Nadal’s next service game to take the set 6-2.
The Spaniard regrouped, however, and broke Murray in the opening game of the second set only for the Scot to break back immediately.
Both players were on their limit but it was Murray who was to crack first as his serve, which had been commanding in the first set, began to falter under increasing pressure.
Murray’s dropped his serve twice to trail 4-1 in the third, and although he fought to the end he couldn’t knock Nadal out of his stride and the Spaniard took the match on his fifth match point.