Thursday 26 April 2018

Classy Spaniard turns on style to book final date with Berdych

Nick Harris at Wimbledon

The weight of history and the genius of Rafael Nadal were too much for Andy Murray here last night as the Spanish world No 1 consigned the British No 1 to a second successive Wimbledon semi-final defeat.

A year ago at this stage, it was Andy Roddick who put the Scot to the sword. Yesterday Nadal played brilliantly, winning in three sets 6-4 7-6 6-4 and while the match was closely fought, Nadal simply played better on the most important points.

There is no shame in defeat for Murray. Nadal (24) has already established himself as one of the all-time greats and earlier this year went on unbeaten run of 22 matches that notched him four titles including the French Open.

He won here in 2008 and hasn't been beaten at Wimbledon in anything except a final since '05. Roger Federer beat him in the finals of '06 and '07, and Nadal missed last year with a knee injury.

"I'm disappointed because I had chances in the match," said Murray. "He played better than me but I'm disappointed because I had chances . . . his backhand is good, his forehand is good, his movement is excellent."

Murray said he did not think the pressure of the crowd played any part in his defeat. "It doesn't affect the outcome of matches," he said. "It's not a valid excuse to make. I've played really well the whole tournament.

"I obviously want to win for myself. I want to win for the guys I work with. I want to win for the UK. It's a little more disappointing (losing here) than at the other Grand Slams because this one is the biggest one of the year for me. It's tough."

Nadal will now face the Czech Tomas Berdych in tomorrow's final, Berdych having beaten Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the first semi-final.

"This was a very good win for me," Nadal said. "To beat Andy, you need to play your best tennis. You need to do that to beat one of the best players in the world."

Murray said he would "stay away" from tennis courts "for a while" and take a holiday, and said he had "no idea" whether the loss would affect him.

After losing the Australian Open final earlier this year to Federer, Murray had a sustained blip in form that didn't really abate until he turned up in SW19 for these championships and won his first six matches in impressive fashion.


"I work hard and I hope it (a dip in form) doesn't happen again," he said. "I've normally played well in the American hard-court stretch after Wimbledon. Hopefully I'll play well again now."

So the wait goes on, for a male British Wimbledon singles finalist: it is 72 years since Bunny Austin lost to Donald Budge. And the wait goes on for a British winner. It is 74 years since Fred Perry completed his 1930s hat-trick.

Murray remains Britain's best hope for the foreseeable future, and at 23, has plenty of time on his side.

Nadal was evidently delighted to win but also consoled Murray at the end as they embraced at the net.

"I said sorry to him that he had to lose and best of luck in the future," Nadal said. "I'm sure he'll win a Grand Slam sometime, some time soon."

Murray's defeat extends the losing streak by British men in the Wimbledon semis to 10 matches. Murray himself lost last year, Tim Henman lost four semi-finals, Roger Taylor lost three and Mike Sangster one.

Murray has now been in four Grand Slam semis, losing two on British turf, and winning both the others, at the US Open in 2008 (before losing the final to Federer), and at the Australian Open this year (ditto).

There was just one break of serve in the opening set yesterday, in the ninth game, and on a day when Murray mostly served superbly, he double-faulted to 30-30, Nadal set up a break point with a forehand winner, and Murray hit wide to hand his opponent the game.

There were no breaks in the second set, Nadal edging the tie-break 8-6. Murray started brightly in the third set, breaking Nadal to love in the opening game, but the Majorcan broke back for 4-4, held for 5-4, and broke for game, set and match as Murray began to feel the pressure.

Nadal is brutal in the application of his groundstrokes, and relentless in pursuit of balls other players would never reach.

He will be the hot favourite to win the title against Berdych, although his opponent (6ft 5in and with a massive serve) has hit the form of his life to become the first Czech since Ivan Lendl in 1987 to reach the men's final here.

The No 12 seed reached his first Slam final by beating an increasingly dispirited Djokovic 6-3 7-6 6-3 in a display of baseliner power.

"The feeling is amazing, to reach another victory over another great player, Novak Djokovic, in straight sets, it's amazing," said 24-year-old Berdych. (© Independent News Service)

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