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Does Nadal's exit open way for Murray?

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Jonathan Overend | 07:10 UK time, Thursday, 27 January 2011

It was impossible not to feel for Rafael Nadal, both as he departed Rod Laver Arena, his dream of four successive majors dashed, and when he faced the media, fielding questions from international inquisitors, some of whom clearly could not feel his pain.

For the second year in a row, injury had forced the Spaniard out of the quarter finals of the Australian Open. Twelve months ago, he retired against Andy Murray with knee trouble. This time, the world number one's campaign effectively ended when he tweaked something in his upper left leg inside the first three games against David Ferrer.

As the Australia Day fireworks went off in the park next door, a disconsolate Nadal stretched and stared into space. The dream was lost in the glaze of his eyes.

The 24-year-old told the assembled media that he had been determined not to quit - he "hated" the feeling of retirement against Murray - but admitted afterwards that the contest was "almost over" before the players had really got into their stride.

It was 26 minutes before the players headed for their first sit-down, with the fateful second game containing 24 points, eight of them deuces. Nadal left the court shaking his head and returned with heavy strapping, shaking his head again. The look he gave his uncle Tony said everything. Ferrer was in the semi-finals.

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Credit must go to the tournament's seventh seed. He played a fine match and finished the job impressively - not easy facing a friend in need - before saying in the on-court interview that it did not really feel like a victory.

There is no doubt that Nadal failed to compete at his usual level, hampered by the injury. Yet he refused to use it as an excuse afterwards, preferring to praise his countryman.

Nadal would not even confirm the nature of the injury. When pressed, he responded: "It seems I always have a problem when I lose. I don't want to have this image."

A dignified exit amid the crushing disappointment of missing what will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime chance of holding all four majors simultaneously.

For comfort, Nadal should recall events of a year ago, when, after his Melbourne misfortune, he produced a year of stunning success, winning the other three majors.

So where does this leave Murray, into the semis of a major for the fifth time?

He negotiated a tricky match with Alexandr Dolgopolov impressively and now has a surprise opponent in Ferrer. But does that make his passage to the final any easier?

The British number one would have expected to play Nadal, planned to play Nadal, perhaps even wanted to play Nadal. Now it is the all-round game, speed and cunning of the 28-year-old Ferrer.

The Spaniard's versatility must make him one of the hardest players out there to construct a game plan for. Indeed, Mats Wilander has told 5 live Sport that Ferrer could be a "nightmare" for Murray, making his tournament harder not easier.

As for the other semi, there is no guarantee that Roger Federer will win through given the way Novak Djokovic is playing.

If the number three seed plays the defending champion in the same manner as in New York last year, full of bold ambition, then we could have a most unexpected final

I am still going for Federer v Murray, though. What about you?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    If Murray plays the way he did against A.D'v, then he has no chance. He was too defensive and not prepared to takse risks when needed.

    This is also a shame for Nadal, his dream, for now, ended. There are other years, no?

    Mind you, same for Fed. His dreams were shattered when he contracted Mono...he hasn't been the same since. The mental side has gone...

    If, and it is a big IF, if it is Murray v Fed, i still fancy Fed. He has the upper edge psychologically against Murray. And that is what brings Murray down..his mental attitude.

  • Comment number 2.

    I said early last week that this tournament was Nadal's to lose, and up until yesterday's injury I think that was the case. Seemed to be cruising.

    Whatever the injury is, and probably it's a hamstring?, one thing is for sure - he should have stopped there and then when he felt it go. Took a massive risk playing on. No doubt he didn't want to endure another withdrawl as he did last year, but I think he missed the "bigger picture" playing on - he could have wrecked his year.

    As for Murray? We'll, Ferrer has the edge at 3-2 in previous meeting so it's likely to be close (probably too close to call), and it will be a bit of a roller-coaster for Murray fans. Ferrer is an intelligent player and will make Murray work hard for points.

    This tournament is now Fedderer's to lose.... ;-)

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem with Nadal's game is that he goes in with everything every point. It is also the best part about watching him.

    It will take its toll on his body more and more, although I hope not.

    This is Federer's to lose.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ferrer has only ever beaten Murray on clay so their head to head is misleading for this match. Murray in straight sets for me.

  • Comment number 5.

    Nadal did not go out because of injury last year. He was getting hammered by Murray long before his “injury”. Ferrer has done little to prove he can beat Murray. He has had an easy ride in this tournament and has never beaten Murray on this surface. He was never going to get past the semis whoever he played against.

  • Comment number 6.

    Watching the tennis now and it looks like Murray vs Novak, though you can never write off Federer. Either way Murray has a good shot, and I think he would prefer Federer just because he forces you to up your game that little bit, just as Novak is doing now.

    Felt really sorry for Nadal, easily the most exciting player to watch in terms of raw energy. He also showed what a class act he is by refusing to talk about or blame his injury when most other tennis players, or indeed sportsmen/women, would have jumped at the chance. They probably wouldn't have even completed the game and retired after the second set citing the injury. I'm sure that in the future Nadal will complete the 'Rafa Slam' as he is still improving. Murray vs Nadal in future slam finals will be a joy to watch.

  • Comment number 7.

    I don't get the whole thing about it being easier for Murray. All through his draw Murray has played those who've bucked the expected order as he "avoided" Del Potro, Soderling, Nadal . . . These players - perhaps Ferrer aside - have progressed because they've beaten a supposed better player. Therefore Dopo had as much right to be feared as Soderling.

    Final word must go to Rafa who I have great respect for. His sportsmanship is so impressive - Roger could take a few lessons - it is almost in manner in which he wins and loses that makes Nadal a true champion to me.

  • Comment number 8.

    The dream final (for Murray fans) will be Murray/Djokovic with Murray winning in straight sets in the semi and Djokovic beating the Fedinator in 5 grueling sets. That won't seem likely, and even as a Murray fan, I can't call his semi against Ferrer. It'll be close and IF Djokovic can beat Federer, the pressure is all on Murray because surely this is his best chance to win a major.

    Sorry to Rafa, you're a great player but the hard courts really take it out of you and you're injury prone on them. Of course, you'll come storming back to win the FO and Wimbledon... again.

  • Comment number 9.

    No, but I'm pretty sure the Djokovic win does...

  • Comment number 10.

    It all comes down to this:

    Murray has to play really well against Ferrer and then the game of his life against Novak in the final. Its all about two excellent performances from Murray. If he produces and lets go of any fear he will be the champion.

  • Comment number 11.

    Ferrer v Djoko final. I want Murray to win through, but Ferrer is at least as good a player as Andy, and if Andy sits back defensively, he will be beaten. He has to go aggressive, mix it up, put the drop shots in, and not just play the rally waiting for an error.

    If Andy gets through, I make it 50/50 - his game matches up well against Djoko's, imo, much more than Federer's, so that much is a bonus for him.

    Whatever, this is the chance commentators have been speculating on - the big 2 are out, and Andy needs to seize the moment. Trouble is, Djokovic only needs to keep that level up for 1 more game, and it's hard to see past him. Interesting...

  • Comment number 12.

    Djokovic v Murray. A grand slam final without either of Murrays big game bogey men. He has beaten them all but always seems to have waited for the top 2 to produce fireworks and has never had a foothold in a major final. This time if he makes it through will he be able to dictate the tempo against Djokovic the way he has at times in the past?

    One thing though, I bet he wishes it had been 5 sets today as his opponent will be fresh as a daisy in the final. Murray needs to win in 4 sets maximum or he will be outgunned in the final

  • Comment number 13.

    Why in the world is anyone even considering the idea that Ferrer is favourite against Murray? Ferrer has never taken a set off Murray on a hard court, and I don't think that will change tomorrow. To the chap who thinks that Ferrer is "at least as good a player as Andy", I'd be interested to know what that comment is based on. It surely can't be their respective records over the last five years.

    Djokovic will be an entirely different proposition, and I think it'll be an awesome final.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is Murray's moment. It is as if the seas have parted for him and he no longer has to get past Nadal or Federer. This has to be his best chance to win a major.
    He has to be focussed and above all else nasty enough to really want to win it. Any loss of either of those and he will as ever lose again.
    This is probably his best and last chance to do it. I do not think he will ever get a better chance like this.
    He is the one British player apart from Rusedski who has the real anger needed to win a major and if he does not do it now he never will . Which is a tragedy for at any other time he would be the best player in the world bar none.

  • Comment number 15.

    "Ferrer is at least as good a player as Andy"

    I know it's never a good idea to downplay the quality of your opponent, and that Ferrer has been in or around the top 15 for a few years, so certainly is no mug, but the above is just demonstrably wrong, particularly on hard courts:

    The Murray v Ferrer comparison:

    Highest ranking - 2 v 4
    Current ranking - 5 v 7
    Best Slam performance - 2 x losing finalist v 1 SF previously
    Masters series titles - 6 v 0

    Andy also leads in career titles and winnings, depsite having been a pro for 3 years less.

    The only thing superficially in Ferrer's favour is that he leads the H2H by 3 to 2, but with all three wins being on clay and the two defeats being on hard courts this is not as informative as sometimes.

    So based on previous history you have to say Andy is a better hard court player and should start as a reasonably strong favourite, even if Ferrer must be on a high with his win over Rafa.

    If Andy gets to the final it should be interesting - Djoko v Murray matches have been rare as hens teeth recently, but Andy has won their last 3 meetings (the most recent being Miami 09, so nearing 2 years ago). Djokovic looks to be in good form and improving through the tournament, whereas perhaps Andy has already performed his best.

  • Comment number 16.

    If Ferrer had beaten a fit Nadal, I would be more apprehensive about the semi. As it is, I think Murray will be able to revert to a more orthodox style against Ferrer - playing Dolgopolov was like playing snooker against someone trying to pot a ball every shot, and Murray couldn't be more aggressive even if he wanted to. If a guy makes 75-80 UE in a match, it's a reasonable tactic to let him. Against Ferrer, hopefully he'll have more control if he serves well.
    As for a final with Djokovic, could be a classic, with lots of long rallies between two great athletes.

  • Comment number 17.

    I really don't think Ferrer is a "nightmare" for Murray at all, as Wilander wants us to believe. Sadly for a great player, Wilander seems to lack a lot of genuine insight into today's game and changes his mind like he does underwear. I cringe listening to a lot of his Annabel-prompted "analysis".

    The H2H for Ferrer v Murray is 3-2. All of Ferrer's wins have been on clay and none of them have been easy wins. Murray's 2 wins are both on hard court and have both been reasonably comfortable (the most recent being a 6-2 6-2 thrashing at the O2 WTF's).

    This SF is being played on fast hard courts that suit Murray's game. Murray has not lost to Ferrer on hard courts. I'm not sure how anyone can draw the conclusion that Ferrer would be favourite. That's not to say he can't win, of course he can. But the facts and stats appear to heavily favour Murray, if he keeps his form going.

    Ferrer's a notoriously flaky guy mentally filled with self-doubt, despite the improvements he has made in the last 12 months on that side of things. If Murray can unsettle him early on and put that doubt in his mind, this may not even be much of a contest.

  • Comment number 18.

    dummy_half - you beat me to it!!!

  • Comment number 19.

  • Comment number 20.

    Of course it gives him a boost. He has managed to avoid Del Potro, Soderling, Nadal and now Federer. Surely it is his time.. http://jackbradshaw.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 21.

    Oops, so much for Federer vs Murray lol
    Let's hope you were 50% correct with that prediction.

    The problem is he doesn't have a great record with Ferrer but if he is going to win a Grand Slam this is surely his best opportunity. The top 2 seeds are out and the one to watch (Djokovic) is the next round. Concentrate, focus and he'll do just fine.

  • Comment number 22.

    I do not think Andy Murray has what it takes to win against a firing Djokovic if he is able to beat Ferrer. Ferrer's tenacity could cause Andy problems by taking him to 4 or 5 sets. I fully expect Andy to come through as the h2h on hard courts favour him. Whoever gets to the final will be worth it but I predict a Djokovic win no matter who.
    It would be a big boost for British tennis if Andy does win though but I can't see it unless of course Djokovic get injured.

  • Comment number 23.

    Olu,

    You can't see Murray beating Djokovic despite the fact that Murray has won their last three encounters?

    I think Djoko is playing as well as I've seen him play in a long time, but Murray absolutely has what it takes to beat him. Djoko plays best when his opponent is hitting consistent, fast balls at him. Murray isn't going to do that, and on the last three occasions, Murray's game has spoiled Djoko's game.

    Assuming Murray makes it, I'd make the final even money.

  • Comment number 24.

    The facts are that Murray has had the easiest draw possible. He probably wouldn't have beaten Federer. He definitely wouldn't have beaten Nadal, who was just hitting top form after illness in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Personally, I wish he would get a personality and stop subjecting us to these interviews where he drones on as if he is in deep depression even when he wins. He doesn't even come accross as a nice guy, unlike Henman who was pure class as a person. He also isn't in the same league as Federer, let alone Nadal as a player with fair play running through him. He may very well win his first Slam but this will be more down to luck than skill.

  • Comment number 25.

    Djokovic is very impressive cant see Murray beating him, and has been hardly under pressure except in quarters and thought he played just very defensively, first stop is Ferrer could be interesting

  • Comment number 26.

    "He probably wouldn't have beaten Federer. He definitely wouldn't have beaten Nadal, who was just hitting top form after illness in the weeks leading up to the tournament. "

    Again, don't worry about the truth getting in the way of a good argument.

    Andy has beaten Rafa in USO 08 SF and AO 10 QF (Rafa withdrawing injured while 2 sets and a break down in the latter). There's no doubt Murray has a game that can seriously trouble Nadal on hard courts, even over 5 sets.

    By contrast, although he leads the H2H agaisnt Federer overall, their two meetings in 5 set matches have both been Slam finals, and in both Federer was dominant.

    So from this, it was actually more likely that Andy would have seen off Nadal (who to my eyes never looked that great this tournament anyway - possibly the after-effects of the illness he had in Doha?). A repeat of a final meeting with Federer would have been interesting given what happened last year both in the final and subsequently (Andy's melt-down for the first half of the 2010 season).

    Anyway, instead it's Ferrer, who is definitely beatable, and potentially Djokovic who clearly out-played a slightly below-par Federer.

    The match-up with Djoko will certainly be interesting - they haven't met for nearly 2 years, and Andy won their last 3 meetings (so hasn't lost to Djokovic since Monte Carlo in 08, and on hard since Miami 07). At that time it looked like Andy's game plan of mixing up speeds and spins was getting the better of Djoko's more straiht-forward game plan. Whether the intervening 2 years has seen either change and improve significantly is something that it will be good to find out.

  • Comment number 27.

    So funny how many of the comments here say 'it's Murray's best chances of winning a slam'. If he can only win a slam because the best players have for whatever reason already exited the tournament then doesn't this just make Murray another Thomas Johansson one slam wonder?!

  • Comment number 28.

    redsulu - are you watching the same interviews as I am? Murray is smiling, relaxed and displaying a dry sense of humour. What more do you want?

    I hope that Murray makes the most of this opportunity. He has the necessary skills and a win (even without a victory over Nadal and Federer) would surely spur him on to replicate it when the top two are in the mix.

  • Comment number 29.

    The way Djokovic played against The Fed today, Murray has no chance even if he does make it to the final

  • Comment number 30.

    If Murray does go on to win a slam, I doubt he'll become another Thomas Johansson. The media would, hopefully, get off his case and his confidence would grow immensely.

    If Murray does overcome Ferrer then I think it will be a very close final. Murray needs to play like he did against Nadal in the semi of the ATP Tour Finals. Against ANYONE else, on that day, he would have won. Maybe even Federer.

    I'm favouring Djoko in the final. By the skin of his teeth.

    On a side note, I got my tweet posted on the text commentary of the Nadal-Ferrer match. I was chuffed.

  • Comment number 31.

    Redsulu, let Henman go. Murray is miles better than Henman ever was.

    For this tournament: Murray to meet Djokovic in a tight final. I've been getting more impressed with Murray as he matures. He actually destroys good players, beating them by large margins.

  • Comment number 32.

    murray , has what it takes to beat ferrer on this surface, not clay ,score 6.3 6,4 6,2 .

  • Comment number 33.

    jkinjapan: On the contrary, perfect tactics from Murray. Dolgopolov's shot selection is irratic and he makes a lot of errors. Soderling tried to be too aggressive against him and hit too many unforced errors. Murray, kept the ball in play with deep defence - not pretty, but suitable for his opponent. It's quite obvious he wont play like this against ferrer - and he'll certainly be more aggressive if he wants to beat Djokovic. Come on Andy!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Ferrer is a danger but I'm hoping for Murray v Djokovic. Total 50/50 I make that - I'll back whoever the bookies offer at odds against. If Murray were to win, I reckon he could go on to be World #1 - he really is very talented - certainly win multiple slams. I see a Wimbledon in his future, maybe this year, although Fed still a probable there, and a fully fit Nadal could do it again (obviously).

  • Comment number 35.

    Well it's déjà vu again - Djokovic beats Federer in the S/F.

    Djokovic was remarkably self assured today, Murray will have to dig deep to match that, assuming he gets past Ferrer.

  • Comment number 36.

    Murray is a great player who sometimes plays badly. That's why he "only" No 4 in the world (he's better than soderling, usually). If he contrives to play badly against Ferrer, Murray will lose. If he plays anywhere close to his best, he'll win - as easily as he beat Soderling in the Masters.

    Djoko is now showing that he could break the Federer / Nadal duopoly. Murray can beat him but he'll have to be at his best. At the Masters, I think it was the first time that Nadal and Murray have both played their best tennis - Murray won more points, and could have taken it, but Nadal just won more of the critical points.

    As for Henman - he himself will readily admit that Murray is better than he ever was. Redsulu's point is that Murray is not such a "gentleman". But Men's Tennis is fortunate at the moment to have the two best players ever, fighting it out, and they're both top guys. Imagine if we'd only had one of these - they'd have won EVERYTHING, grand slam after grand slam, and we'd all say "boring".

  • Comment number 37.

    Murray to win in 4 sets, 7-5,4-6,6-3,6-4

  • Comment number 38.

    36 AlexTunbridge

    I broadly agree with you, however with regards to Henman vs Murray, Henman played a style of tennis that I found more attractive than Murray's percentage game. I go with the view that Murray may be the more complete player but stylewise Henman wins down.

  • Comment number 39.

    A large lot of This potential GS win for Murray is down to luck, but the history books don't tell you that, and who knows, with the confidence of winning one he may go on and win a couple more.

    I think it is harsh to judge Murray on his personality. He is obviously a shy guy, and has become a whole lot better with regards to interviews and dealing with the media over the last few years.

    Ferrer is an odd one for me. I'm reletively new to tennis, and remember barely knowing anything about him when Murray overtook him for the No. 4 world ranking. But I guess that the kind of person Ferrer is. Always seems to slip under the radar...

  • Comment number 40.

    Both Djokovic and Murray are great tennis players and great guys as well.I believe that since their juniors they are not only rivals on the court but also good friends with great respect to each other.I am a big fan of Novak, but I would not be bad if Andy wins the title.Scot is my second favourite and I'm telling you that being a Serb, and with great sincerity.

  • Comment number 41.

    stephen_P
    You may be right about it being even. I give Djokovic the edge because he has won a GS before and it was the AO.
    On the day things could change. Would you be placing a bet on the match?
    I know I wouldn't.

  • Comment number 42.

    Does Nadal's exit open way for Murray?

    ...what about Ferrer, Murray hasn't beaten him yet!?

  • Comment number 43.

    Nadal: Nadal would not even confirm the nature of the injury. When pressed, he responded: "It seems I always have a problem when I lose. I don't want to have this image."

    As retired Judo international, I sympathise with Nadal as i used to either win or get injured, there was nothing more furstrating. Do not worry about what people think though, as we know that, although your body has let you donw once again, your mind and hunger has not and we love you and admire your tenacity.

  • Comment number 44.

    Two words: Oh dear.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Does Nadal's exit open way for Murray?

    ...what about Ferrer, Murray hasn't beaten him yet!?"

    He has now!

  • Comment number 46.

    Well done to Murray on his win, I wish I could get excited about the final but the new order have yet to inspire me as much as the old order.

    Still good luck to Murray, this is as good a chance as he will have to win a slam.

 

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