Andy Murray reaches Madrid Open final after beating Rafa Nadal
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 08/05/16 1:04am
Defending champion Andy Murray marched into the final of the Madrid Open after defeating home favourite Rafa Nadal for the second successive year.
The British world No 2 ended Nadal's 13-match unbeaten run on clay after looking back to his best on his favoured surface with victories in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in recent weeks.
Murray sealed a devastating 7-5 6-4 success to send him through to Sunday's final where he will play Novak Djokovic.
Murray broke twice in the opening set to take it and despite squandering a match point at 5-3 in the second he raised his game to get the job done and gain revenge over the Spaniard for his Monte Carlo semi-final defeat last month.
Murray fought off a strong challenge by Nadal, serving eight aces and saving 11 break points to win a rematch of last year's final and after his victory he told Sky Sports: "I think I used my forehand pretty good during the match. I was able to push him back behind the baseline.
"I felt as though I made a lot of returns in play - I didn't make too many mistakes on the return so was able to make him work hard on his service games.
"Against Rafa, he doesn't serve as hard as everyone else but he puts a lot of pressure on your return because if you don't hit a good one he dictates the points straight away with the forehand. I was able to get some good direction on the forehand and I think that helped me today."
Murray felt he learned his lessons from his defeat against the 29-year-old in Monte Carlo by trying to stay on top at the beginning of the second set and the British No 1 revealed how he has done his homework in order to develop his technique on his second serve as well as working with his brother Jamie's coach Louis Cayer.
"I spoke to a number of coaches who work with younger players to develop technique, just to understand different grips, different positions to stand on the court as well, the ideal spot to make contact with the serve," Murray said.
"I spent a bit of time with Louis Cayer before Monte Carlo and watched a lot of videos. Sometimes you can get into bad habits over the years because when you become a professional you don't do as much technical work, it's more tactical and physical work."
Nadal had come from a set down to beat Murray in the semi-finals of Monte Carlo and was forced to try to do the same again as the world No 2 edged a tight first set.
Murray surrendered a 5-2 lead, but responded perfectly by breaking Nadal to love with a searing forehand return to take the set.
The second set was a tale of break points as Murray saved eight of the nine he faced and pounced on his two opportunities to silence the home crowd in the La Caja Mágica.
Nadal missed out on three break points in the opening game of the set and two more as Murray held to lead 3-2.
Murray then moved to within a game of victory as he broke with his first chance of the second set. However, Nadal battled back from match point down as Murray fired a forehand long to finally break the Scot's serve on his ninth break point opportunity of the set.
The Spaniard couldn't back up the break, though, as he crashed his attempted smash into the net to bring up two more match points and then also found the net with a forehand to hand Murray victory in just over two hours.
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"It was an open, competitive match which in the end was decided by a few points. The one that played the big points better won," said Nadal.
"He made the difference with his serve. I didn't play my best, but I also didn't play badly. I was at a middling level which wasn't enough to beat Murray."
Murray, who has won seven of his last eight matches on clay, needs to win the title this weekend to avoid being overtaken by Roger Federer in the rankings.
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