ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal loses to Andy Murray for second straight year

The defending champion Andy Murray earned a chance to compete for the third title in Madrid in 2016, beating Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3 after two hours and 11 minutes. In the re-run of the final from 12 months ago, Andy played his best tennis when it mattered the most, fending off 11 out of 13 break points he played against and converting four return chances to seal the deal after a grueling and exciting battle. It was the seventh triumph for the Briton over the Spaniard and their last clash so far, never facing again as Andy started to struggle with a hip injury soon after lifting the Madrid crown. Nadal won titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the previous weeks, failing to repeat that in the Spanish capital after hitting almost 30 forced errors. Nadal couldn’t push Andy away from the comfort zone or seize his opportunities on the return, even though Murray served at only 54%.

The Briton had the advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes and stayed in touch with Rafa in the most extended exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets and remain on the title course. Due to rain, the match took place under a roof, and Murray had the upper hand in those conditions, with fast first serves and rock-solid backhands that denied the majority of Nadal’s attacks and drew many errors from the king of clay. Andy drew first blood in the fourth game after Rafa’s backhand error, holding at 15 thanks to a loose drop shot from the crowd favorite that sent him 4-1 in front.

Andy Murray toppled Rafael Nadal in the 2016 Madrid Open semi-final.

The Briton repelled two break chances in the seventh game with service winners and brought it home with a forehand winner to open a 5-2 gap and move closer to the set. Ready to fight for every point, Rafa held at love and pulled the break back in game nine to reduce the deficit and prolong the action before leveling the score at 5-5 with a forehand winner.

Staying focused, Andy held after deuce and stole Nadal’s serve at love with a return winner for 7-5 after 62 minutes, earning massive momentum ahead of set number two. The Spaniard wasted break chances at the beginning of the second set, and Murray fended off another two at 2-2 with service winners, holding after five deuces with a volley winner to remain in front. That game became even more significant when he broke Nadal’s serve in the next game to open a 4-2 gap, erasing two break points with winners in the next game to extend the advantage. Serving for the victory at 5-3, Andy netted a forehand to suffer a break that brought Nadal back into contention and made the crowd at Caja Magica erupting in joy. It was the last push that Rafa made in this encounter, though, as he netted a forehand to suffer a break at 15 in game ten and propel Murray into his second straight Madrid final, winning only eight matches in Caja Magica before 2015!

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