Murray faces the ultimate clay court test
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:31
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray both had to work double shifts on Friday to set up a mouth-watering Monte Carlo Masters semi-final clash.
Top seed and world No.1 Nadal dispatched Nicolas Lapentti 6-3 6-0 in a match held over from Thursday, before returning to see off Monte Carlo resident Ivan Ljubicic 6-3 6-3.
Murray, the No.4 seed, finished the job against Italian Fabio Fognini having held a one-set lead overnight, and then came back in the evening to ride out the challenge of No.6 seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-6(1) 6-4.
“It was a long day,” said the Scot, who recovered from 4-1 down in the second set of both matches. “I’m rather looking forward to getting to my bed. It was a long first set, but I played a good tiebreaker and I came back in the second.”
Four-time Monte Carlo champion Nadal, bidding for a record fifth consecutive trophy at the Country Club, is adamant that playing two matches in one day will not have any bearing on the Murray game.
“It was a tough day but two good wins, without losing a set,” said the four-time French Open champ. “That is good news. The best news is I’m in the semi-finals – I’m very happy for that.
“I played less than three hours, that’s always important. The first match was not long and I was totally a hundred percent in the second.”
Murray has never gone this far in a clay court tournament, and had never won three matches in a row on the surface before Friday.
In Saturday’s other semi-final, world No.3 Novak Djokovic faces Stanislas Wawrinka who put out Roger Federer in the third round.
Djokovic, beaten by Federer in the semi-finals in Monte Carlo last year, overcame a bullish Fernando Verdasco 6-2 4-6 6-3.
“The courts were really wet, even today you could feel it,” said the Serbian. “The balls were getting bald and really fast. It was tough to control, but overall I played really well.”
The early quarter-finals were played with a stiff breeze throughout which posed problems for both players at times. “Today was a really good test, a really good match for me. I hung in there and just waited for my chances.”
Wawrinka, the No.13 seed, beat German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-2 6-4 and will be keen to post a win against Djokovic after losing to the Serb three times in 2008, including the Rome Masters final.
“When I came to that final, I already thought my tournament was successful and I didn’t believe in my ability to beat him,” said Wawrinka. “This is one year later, and everything is different. I have more confidence in myself, and I’ll try my best to win.”