Murray equals best run on clay to set up Nadal semi-final

Crisis, what crisis? Andy Murray arrived at the Monte Carlo Masters without a win for nearly three months but has responded with a run that matches his best-ever performance on his most challenging surface.

Murray's emphatic 6-2, 6-1 victory yesterday over Portugal's Frederico Gil sent the 23-year-old Scot into the semi-finals of a clay-court Masters Series tournament for only the second time in his career.

The last week on the Côte d'Azur could prove to be a major turning point in Murray's season, although the world No 4 might struggle to make further progress. His opponent in the last four this afternoon is the king of clay himself, Rafael Nadal, who is chasing his seventh consecutive Monte Carlo title.

Nevertheless, three successive straight-set victories have clearly done wonders for Murray's confidence in the wake of the barren run that followed his victory over David Ferrer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January.

"Obviously I plan on winning the match," Murray said as he looked ahead to facing Nadal, who has practised with him this week. "You need to go in with that attitude. I'll think about the tactics a little bit tonight. I've always enjoyed playing against Rafa. It's obviously a great test."

It was the world No 1 who ended Murray's previous best sequence on clay in the semi-finals of this tournament two years ago. However, the Scot took plenty of positives from that display after keeping the Spaniard on court for more than two hours.

"I remember the end of the second set well," Murray said. "That was where I felt I played some of my best clay-court tennis. I started to find the right way to play against him. He's obviously incredibly difficult to beat on clay, but you need to believe you can win and execute the game plan you set out from the first point to the last."

Although Nadal has won nine of their 13 meetings, Murray has come out on top in four of the last eight, including two in Grand Slam tournaments. When they last met, in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November, Nadal won a thrilling match after more than three hours.

The 24-year-old Spaniard's 6-1, 6-3 win yesterday over Ivan Ljubicic was his 35th victory in a row in this tournament and his 27th in succession on clay, his last defeat having come at the hands of Robin Soderling at the 2009 French Open. However, Nadal has not won a tournament for six months and is under pressure to keep winning to stop Novak Djokovic – who is absent this week with a knee injury – replacing him at the top of the world rankings.

Murray, ironically, is showing some of the best clay-court form of his career having just parted company with his part-time coaching consultant, Alex Corretja, who was originally recruited to help him on this surface. Murray, who is looking to appoint a new coach, executed a near-perfect match yesterday, constructing points with the patience you would normally expect from someone who has spent a lifetime playing on clay.

Gil, who had won five matches in succession to reach his first Masters Series quarter-final, rarely found the weight of shot to trouble Murray, who repeatedly manoeuvred himself into dominant positions before unleashing his killer blows. There was a touch of genius about some of his winners, including one drop shot that spun viciously into the tramlines and a wonderfully angled low forehand after chasing down a drop shot by Gil.

Despite the tricky conditions, with an unpredictable chilly breeze occasionally blowing clay into the players' faces, Murray quickly found his stride to break serve in the third and fifth games before taking the first set. Gil held his opening service game of the second set and then got to 0-30 on Murray's, but thereafter his resistance crumbled. Murray converted his second match point with a forehand winner down the line after just an hour and 11 minutes.

Jurgen Melzer sprang a surprise in the other half of the draw with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer, whose only other defeats this year had been against Nadal and Djokovic. The world No 9, who had never taken a set off Federer before, now faces Ferrer, who beat Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-3.

News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own