Nadal ends the Murray dream for second year

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The Independent Online

The wait goes on. Andy Murray lit a flame of hope inside British hearts of a first home champion for 75 years here yesterday only to have it blown out by a Spanish whirlwind. Murray lost in the semi-finals for the third year in succession and for the third time in the last four years to Rafael Nadal, but only after letting his grip on the match slip through his hands.

Having failed to take a set off Nadal in his two previous encounters here with the 25-year-old Spaniard, Murray took charge by winning the first set, only for his levels to dip as quickly as his opponent's rose. Nadal went on to win 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to extend his winning run on these courts to 20 matches and earn a place in tomorrow's final against Novak Djokovic (above), a four-sets winner over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in yesterday's other semi-final. Nadal, who has won the title here in his last two visits, will be playing in his 13th Grand Slam final, a remarkable achievement for a man who celebrated his 25th birthday only last month.

Murray and his supporters, meanwhile, are left to reflect on a continuing story of British disappointment at the world's greatest tennis tournament. Since Bunny Austin reached the final here in 1938, when he lost to Don Budge, his fellow countrymen have reached the semi-finals 11 times without ever clearing the final hurdle. Murray's third loss in the semi-finals goes alongside four by Tim Henman, three by Roger Taylor and one by Mike Sangster.

If Nadal was well below his best for the first hour yesterday, by the end the two-times champion was in full flight. The Spaniard is the best defender in the game, retrieving balls that others would have long given up on, and nobody turns defence into attack more effectively. There were numerous occasions when Murray seemed to have the point won, only for Nadal to keep the rally alive and then hit scorching winners. Although the Spaniard's backhand faltered on occasions, his explosive forehand was at its formidable best by the end.

Murray, having played beautifully in the first set, just could not live with the pace as Nadal responded in thrilling fashion. The 24-year-old Scot is too fine a player not to have other chances to win here or at other Grand Slam tournaments, having lost in his three appearances in major finals, but he is competing in an era dominated by some of the best players the game has ever known.