Rafa Nadal defeated Andy Murray in this afternoon’s second Men’s Singles Wimbledon Semi-Final at the All England Club in three sets 6-4 7-6 6-4.
The Spaniard was as impressive as he was deadly as he held his nerve to save a set point in a second-set tie-breaker before coming back from a break down in the third by jumping on a slight fall in Murray’s first service rate as the Scotsman appeared to tire a tiny fraction against Nadal’s irrepressibly powerful ground strokes.
More than three times, Nadal hit looping, curling, forehand passing shot winners past Murray after he had played a perfect approach to the net. Some of those shots must have left Murray questioning just what he has to do to beat the World Number One on days like today: the Spaniard was, quite simply, brilliant.
But Murray is not far behind Nadal and, with one extra tie-break point and a couple of slightly better first serves when it mattered in set three, he would have been 2-1 up in front of his home fans. It might have been different. Could have. Should have. Might have. Those are big ‘buts’, but, as Nadal conceded after the match, talking to the BBC, Murray is too good not to win a Grand Slam.
Had Nadal dropped his level – as he has, at times, earlier at SW10 in the past week or so – Murray was good enough to beat him today. But on these tiny margins are Grand Slam semi-finals decided, and with Nadal, you just know that any 50:50 situation will not go against him for lack of effort or energy.
Murray returned magnificently today, and played probably the best defensive tennis of anyone in the World today – except for one important man: Rafa Nadal, who still has that little bit more over five sets of Grand Slam tennis.
That little difference is the first serve percentages. Murray matched Nadal in sets one and two, just about, in terms of first serve percentages, and was an inch here and a foot there from being 1-1 at the end of that second set. In the third – ultimately final – set, Murray’s first serve dropped away to 40% while Nadal’s improved as he honed in on victory.
If Murray consistently hits 75% of his 1st serves, his first is superior to Nadal’s, and he wins this sort of encounter. Anything less than 65% and Nadal will get hold of the ball, get into the rally, and blast away any opponent in the world.
It is something of a shame that the crowd did not get four or more sets today – Murray did enough to win one, if not two sets today, but, again, one has to admire the ruthless confidence of Nadal – a type of confidence that comes from winning again and again and again.
Nadal will play the man of the moment Tomas Berdych in the final after the big serving, big hitting Czech saw off Novak Djokovic in similar three set style 6-3 7-6 6-3.
Berdych has a form line through Murray from the French Open that suggests he will offer Nadal a similar level of difficulty in Sunday’s Final, so this is no foregone conclusion either. How refreshing to see the depth return to Men’s tennis, though, as both Murray and Berdych look the real deal and it seems only a matter of time before one of these players lifts a Grand Slam.
It could be only two days to wait for a new name on a big trophy. On today’s evidence, however, Berdych will have to play some remarkable tennis if he is to oust an impressive Rafa Nadal in Sunday’s Final.