Nadal, Murray Set Up Mouthwatering 2015 Madrid Open ATP Final
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It was mens semi-finals day at the Mutua Madrid Open, with four of the world’s best fighting it out for a place in Sunday’s final.
Rafael Nadal vs Tomas Berdych
Play started with the defending champion and home crowd favourite Rafael Nadal vs Tomas Berdych.
The Spaniard won 17 straight times against the Czech before Berdych finally halted that losing streak at the Australian Open.
Berdych’s new found confidence against Nadal was apparent in the opening games, holding serve easy and hitting some good winners. However Nadal soon got a look in at 3-3, forcing the first break point of the match. Berdych saved it with an ace. Berdych’s serve came under more scrutiny towards the end of the set, and he found himself a break point down for the second time at 5-5. This time it was a big second serve that came to the rescue, as Nadal couldn’t return it.
A high quality first set fittingly ended with a tiebreak, and with momentum mostly on his side, Rafa took control. Some big forehands from the defending champion gave him an unassailable lead, and the set was soon his. 7-3 in the tiebreak to Nadal.
Nadal wielded the first break point of the second set, but like the previous two occasions Berdych saved it. Only this time Berdych saved it with a big forehand winner. The pressure was still on, and in the following point Nadal forced a fourth break point of the match. This time, the defending champion was successful, and thus the first break of the match went to the Spaniard.
As the crowd waved, Berdych saw his chances of rescuing himself disappear. At 4-1, the Czech found himself under constant pressure, and despite being able to save three break points, Berdych ship eventually sank. The world number seven double faulted on break point and from then it was academic. Nadal easily closed out the match, holding serve to love and being the first man to book his place in Sunday’s final.
Berdych played at a good level in the first set, but as the match wore on it was clear that Nadal was finding his game, and after the first break of serve the Czech’s confidence sunk.
Nadal pointed out post-match that this was his best performance for a long time.
“Well it went fine. Went really good. I think I played a very good match, best match of the tournament without a doubt.”
“Much more than that, I think it has been a long time since I played at that level. In General I’m very happy.”
Nadal improves to 19-4 against Berdych, and his title defence continues against Andy Murray.
Kei Nishikori vs Andy Murray
Andy Murray booked his second clay court final in as many weeks after a straight sets victory over Kei Nishikori.
The Brit looked to be aggressive on the return and get Nishikori moving off the bat. His first break point opportunity came at 1-1 in the first set, but on that occasion he failed to convert. At 3-3, Murray made no mistake and took the lead in the match. A second break secured the set 6-3.
Nishikori would up his level at the start of the second set, returning better and hitting less unforced errors. He managed to break Murray for the first time at 1-1, but Murray broke straight back. The match stayed with serve until at 5-4, where Murray made another successful move. A net-cord shot went wrong for Kei, and he found himself out of the tournament.
The Japanese star blamed the amount of unforced errors for his loss.
“Well there was too many unforced errors from me.” Nishikori said. “I don’t think I played too bad, but to beat Andy I was missing too much.”
“I thought I was doing well a couple of times, but overall I think he maintained his concentration pretty well.”
Andy Murray believed that he has upped his level since the last time these two met.
“I think last year I struggled a lot against the top players.” The British number one said.
“I wasn’t so confident playing against them. I still felt I wasn’t quite where I needed to be with my game. In the off season I put in a lot of hard work on my game and made a few changes and tried to get back to playing the way that I was playing when I was most successful.”
“I think today I was pretty aggressive. I tried to dictate a lot of the points, especially when he was serving and it worked well.”
Murray will now head into his second straight Clay court final. Only this time he faces the king of clay Rafael Nadal. Tomorrow will be an interesting final, and with Murray’s new found confidence on clay, maybe he can finally defeat Nadal on the surface for the first time.