Rafael Nadal's Early Exit Clears Path for Andy Murray at 2013 Wimbledon

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01:  Andy Murray of Great Britain plays a forehand during the Gentlemen's Singles fourth round match against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia on day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 1, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal's stunning opening round loss to Steve Darcis at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships is old news by now, but it's a result that Andy Murray is surely still smiling about.

After all, no player on the planet has broken Murray's heart more often than Nadal, especially at Wimbledon. That's why Nadal's early loss will be the springboard that launches Murray back into the men's final this summer.

Murray is just 5-13 all time against Nadal and 0-3 on grass, with all three of those meetings coming in the second week of play at the All England Club.

In 2008, Nadal took out a 21-year-old Murray in straight sets in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. He would go on to win his first-ever Wimbledon title. Two years later, it was Rafa again ousting Murray in straight sets en route to winning the men's crown at SW19; this time beating him in the semifinals.

In their most recent meeting at Wimbledon in 2011, Murray won the first set only to lose the next three and watch Nadal advance to the men's final for the second straight year.

So while both third-seeded Roger Federer and sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga assisted Murray in a big way by bowing out in the second round this year, Nadal's first-round loss will ultimately prove the most vital to Murray's chances of returning to the men's final this summer.

Had Rafa advanced to the quarterfinals at the All England Club this July, he and Murray would be looking at a potential semifinal matchup Friday. While Murray is a much-improved player and one of the elite men on grass, he would have had to climb a massive psychological barrier against Nadal.

Rafa is 6-2 all time against Murray in Grand Slam tournaments and is 7-0 against Murray all time on surfaces other than hard courts.

No other member of the Big Four has challenged Murray the way Nadal has over the years.

The 26-year-old Scotsman knocked off Novak Djokovic on the London grass at the 2012 Summer Olympics a year ago and beat the current world No. 1 in a five-set thriller at the U.S. Open final a month later.

Murray even sports a winning record against Federer, having taken 11-of-20 career meetings with the Swiss legend.

But for whatever reason, Nadal has been the one puzzle Murray has struggled to put together.

In 2012, Nadal's second-round loss to Lukas Rosol meant that Murray had to play Tsonga in the semis instead of Rafa. Not surprisingly, Murray advanced past the Frenchman in four sets, taking the next step and becoming a finalist for the first time.

In 2013, Murray will once again have a clear path to the final, where he will likely be pitted against top-seed Novak Djokovic in what would be a tough but very winnable match.


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