Murray hopes to have last laugh after Nadal sets up showdown

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The Independent Online

The twice-daily river trip between their South Bank hotel and the venue for this week's ATP World Tour Finals has left some of Andy Murray's entourage feeling decidedly queasy. The 23-year-old Scot loves the journey, however, and if he can end his season with two more wins this weekend the boat will have come in like never before in his career.

Victory in the season-ending championships here tomorrow would bring with it a winner's cheque for $1.51m (about £958,000), which would be his biggest prize to date, and 1,300 ranking points, which could be enough to reclaim the world No 3 position from Novak Djokovic.

The only problem is that in order to achieve his goal Murray may have to beat the two players he regards as the greatest of all time. This afternoon he takes on Rafael Nadal, who secured his place in the semi-finals yesterday with his third successive win of the week, a 7-6, 6-1 victory over Tomas Berdych. Roger Federer could await the winner tomorrow, although the Swiss has to win this evening's semi-final first. The final place in the last four was being decided by yesterday's concluding round-robin match between Djokovic and Andy Roddick.

Only five players have ever beaten Nadal and Federer in the same tournament, but Murray is one of them, having done so in Toronto this summer. For all his tongue-in-cheek comments on Thursday night about seeming unable to beat the top players in big matches – "If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, why don't smart people get it?" he asked on Twitter yesterday – the Scot knows that the best regularly bring out the best in him.

Despite his mauling by Federer in the round-robin phase here on Tuesday, Murray has won eight of his 14 matches against the world No 2. He has won only four out of 12 against Nadal, but all of his victories have come in their last seven meetings and two of them were in semi-finals at Grand Slam tournaments.

"I've played a lot of great matches with him," Murray said. "I enjoy playing against him. It's a great challenge every time. I've played some of my best tennis against him."

Nadal laughed off Murray's suggestion that he had little chance of victory, suggesting that the Scot was trying to deflect the pressure off himself. The world No 1 said that the surface would be in Murray's favour and that he would have to play his best and hope that his opponent was below par. "There – the pressure's back on him now," Nadal laughed.

Earlier in the afternoon a smile could not have been further from Nadal's face. The Spaniard hardly ever argues with officials, but he protested bitterly to Tom Barnes, the tournament supervisor, after a controversial point when he served at 5-6 and 15-15 in the first set.

When a Berdych shot hit the baseline Nadal raised an arm. The Spaniard said afterwards that he was not calling for a video replay challenge but Carlos Bernardes, the umpire, apparently took it as such and awarded the point to Berdych. The incident served only to fire up Nadal, who went on to win the game and take the tie-break 7-3, to much punching of the air.

From 1-1 in the second set Nadal won five games in succession to complete victory in just under two hours. After losing three of his first four matches against Berdych, he has now won eight times in a row without dropping a set.

Having lost all three of his matches here last year, Nadal said he was very happy with his week's work, whatever happens this weekend. "To finish the season winning all the matches in the group, against top-eight players and probably on the most difficult surface for me, is unbelievable," he said.

Nadal v Murray: Major Encounters

Australian Open 4th round 2007

Nadal won 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1

Match showed Murray could live with the best. Aggressive throughout but faded from midway through fourth set.

Wimbledon quarter-final 2008

Nadal won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

Nadal quickly took charge as Murray struggled with the weight of Spaniard's shots. Murray did not serve well and Nadal punished anything short.

US Open semi-final 2008

Murray won 6-2, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4

Perhaps the best performance of Murray's career. He earned a place in his first Grand Slam final by taking the game to Nadal from the outset.

Australian Open quarter-finals 2010

Murray won 6-3, 7-6, 3-0 (Nadal retired)

Murray attacked and played big points superbly. Nadal already looked beaten before knee injury forced his retirement.

Wimbledon semi-finals 2010

Nadal won 6-4, 7-6, 6-4

A tight match in which Murray paid for mistakes at key stages. Nadal came back from 2-5 down in the second set and saved five set points in the tie-break.