Rafael Nadal has beaten Andy Murray more times than any other player on the professional tour but the 24-year-old Scot will relish the chance to take on the 25-year-old Spaniard in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters tonight. Murray has enjoyed his best spring hard-court season since 2009 and would love to end it on a high at a tournament he won three years ago and in a city where he trains regularly during the year.
Although he fell at the first hurdle in Indian Wells earlier this month, Murray has bounced back in Miami. Playing on a hard court offers the world No 4 his best chance of beating Nadal, although the Spaniard has reached the final at Crandon Park three times in the last seven years.
"I've always enjoyed playing Rafa on hard courts," Murray said. "He's very tough for everybody. He's played well here the last couple of years. It's a good court for him, good conditions."
Both players had physical struggles in their quarter-final victories on Wednesday night. Murray blamed over-hydration for the stomach problems he suffered during his 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Janko Tipsarevic, while Nadal had to cope with an injury to his left knee during his 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
"Playing Andy is always a pleasure," Nadal said. "Playing against an exciting player like him pushes you to the limit on everything. The negative thing is that I have to recover well. I have to improve my knee if I want to have any chance of winning. If not, it's going to be almost impossible."
Nadal has won 13 of their 18 meetings and beat Murray in three successive semi-finals at Grand Slam tournaments last year. However, the Scot has won five of their last eight matches on hard courts and played one of the best sets of his life – which he won 6-0 for the loss of only four points – in winning their most recent meeting in Tokyo in October.
Last night's quarter-finals in the other half of the draw saw Novak Djokovic beat David Ferrer, while Juan Monaco thrashed Mardy Fish 6-1, 6-3. In the women's tournament, Maria Sharapova reached the final by beating Caroline Wozniacki 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in a two-and-a-half hour battle. Victoria Azarenka's 26-match unbeaten run was ended in the quarter-finals by Marion Bartoli, who beat the world No 1 6-3, 6-3. Bartoli now faces Agnieszka Radwanska.