By Ros Satar, in Madrid
- Andy Murray  v Rafael Nadal  – H2H: Nadal leads 17-6
- Andy Murray  def. Tomas Berdych  6-3 6-2
- Rafael Nadal  def. Joao Sousa 6-0 4-6 6-3
MADRID, SPAIN – Andy Murray swept aside Tomas Berdych in straight sets to set up a clash with Rafael Nadal, who did not have things quite his own way.
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Andy Murray  v Rafael Nadal  – H2H: Nadal leads 17-6
Murray was in supreme form from the get-go as he took the covered court at the start of the day. With rain heavy in the air since this morning, the conditions were very different to earlier and the week, and Murray made the adjustment very quickly.
Swiftly jumping out to a lead, he delivered a master-class in variety and patience, as Berdych looked all at sea on the clay today. Of course that had not always been the case in their past encounters as Murray explained.
“I’ve obviously made improvements in my game. Last few times I’ve played against I’m him I’ve played good matches. I’ve been motivated. We played a bunch also when we were much younger. Before his power was giving me trouble, especially when I was young.
“We also played once at the French Open in very heavy conditions. It was very wet and I wasn’t able to get the ball going through the court and he was generating a lot more power than me. But now I’m a bit older, physically stronger, and been able to cope better.”
The last few times they played, Murray was very aggressive, causing Berdych to finally admit that perhaps his rigid following of the ‘game-plan’ since taking on Murray’s former coach and confidante Dani Vallverdu needed some adjustment – but he had no answer to Murray in the changing conditions in the Caja Magica.
Murray continued: “Obviously after last few matches we played I’m sure they would’ve looked at those matches and seen things that I was doing. I also know what I was doing in those matches too, so I made some quite big adjustments that obviously helped.
“On a clay court it’s different obviously to playing on the hard courts. You have to use a little bit more variety. When you’re defending, you need to give yourself time to get back into position. If you just hit the ball big, that doesn’t work on the clay all of the time. You need to be a little bit more patient, a little bit smarter when you’re defending, and tried to do that today.”
Despite a deluge outside and a leaky roof on Court Manolo Santana, the clouds rolled away just briefly enough for the roof to be opened ahead of the start of Nadal’s match.
The Spaniard outclassed Joao Sousa in the first set, denying Portugal’s most successful player of even a game on the board.
But Madrid has been nothing if not a little temperamental this week, and soon the rains came once more, with umpire Mohamed Lahyani thankfully take the advice of the court technicians to tell Nadal it was their decision to close the roof again because it would be too dangerous.
Dangerous for whom? Turned out dangerous for Nadal as it turned out, with Sousa stepping up his play to take the second set.
It was tight in the third set, and Sousa seemed to be playing lights out tennis but for all that, he did not make a dent in Nadal’s serve in the final set, finally caving on a third break point before Nadal served out for another semi-final clash on clay with Murray.
Nadal said about Saturday’s rematch: “Murray played really well today and has been during the whole week. It’s going to be a very tough match. I’ll try to give my best. I have to give my best if I want to have options, and that’s what I am going to do. I’m going to try.
“I cannot think of last year. It was is completely different year. Of course I hope that I don’t repeat what happened last year. Everything is possible. Anything can happen.
“I know that I’m playing against the second best player in the world and I think I have to give more. I have options, and it may be more complicated here than Monte-Carlo because of the altitude. That can favour Murray’s game more.”
On the form he displayed in his match against Berdych, Murray has all the weapons to be able to take the battle to the Bull once more. He stunned the Spaniard in Monte Carlo by taking the first set, before normal service was resumed but he felt that he had played well there too.
He said, about facing Nadal: “I think he’s definitely playing better for sure. I also think I’m playing better now than I was at this time last year. You have to keep improving. There are things in my game that are much better just now than at this stage last year.
“When you get to semis or finals of slams you want to go on the court with a very clear game plan and sort of understanding of things that work against him. If he obviously wins, then need to learn from the match I played against him, and hopefully put in a good performance again tomorrow.”
Nadal certainly did not have it all his own way with Sousa – a player who is possibly underrated by many. Last year, Murray achieved the unachievable and beat him on clay in his own back yard. Nadal’s confidence is returning – of that there is no doubt, but with the weather looking to stay unsettled for the rest of the weekend, it will come down to how quickly they can adjust.
Murray adjusted very well to the conditions, and will feel like that might just give him a bit of an advantage coming into the semi-final. All platitudes such as ‘but this is Nadal on home turf’ are no longer relevant ads Murray’s clay court heroics from last year proved that he can be beaten. And if he feels he has improved since then – we could have a semi-final to savour.
Prediction: Murray in three sets.
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