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We would like to take a little credit for making this match happen. Last week, we lamented that Andy Murray had not faced Rafael Nadal in two-and-a-half years. It appears our reverse jinx worked. We got our match with the two facing off in the quarterfinals, and it was a good one.
In the past, Nadal would have been a lock on clay. Given Andy Murray's struggles in 2014, Nadal still appeared to be the heavy favorite. But Murray roused up a spirited effort before falling short, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Murray was at his best in the first set, stepping inside the baseline and hitting several terrific shots with pace and purpose. It was a virtual simulation of Novak Djokovic's attacking best.
Even after the inevitable Nadal comeback, Murray battled back and broke Nadal to hold a third-set lead at 4-2. Then he wore down, hitting a physical wall that left his shots a little weaker and shorter. "He was a little bit stronger than me at the end," Murray admitted in The Guardian. It was enough for the Spanish champion to take full advantage and close him out.
Nadal had needed to change his tactics in the second set. In the first set, Nadal hit cross-court 79 percent of the time. In the second set, Nadal hit 58 percent of his shots up the line. Nadal also responded with several brilliant volleys. In the end, he nearly matched Murray's winners (26-30) but had far fewer unforced errors (22-41). Statistics were reported on-air by Sky Sports' telecast.
In a week of exciting tennis, this was a fine way to renew the Nadal-Murray "mini-rivalry." Maybe we can expect continued improved play from both champions. If so, they could indeed meet more often this summer with bigger stakes on the line.