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Murray out-muscled by Nadal

Andy Murray was tonight sent spinning out of Wimbledon at the hands of a merciless Rafael Nadal.

The Scot looked jaded from Monday's epic comeback against Richard Gasquet but there was no doubting his opponent's brilliance as the Spaniard wrapped up a 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory to reach the semi-finals.

Murray had boasted about his fitness and physique throughout the championships but there was only one muscle man on Centre Court as Nadal pounded him into submission.

Playing his first grand slam quarter-final, the Scot never got to grips with the Nadal serve or forehand, never once looking like creating a break point, while the Spaniard lapped up another inconsistent Murray service display.

On a rain-hit day, the match did not get under way until 6.17pm, with every chance the match might not be completed this evening.

The Scot could ill afford the sort of start he made against Gasquet on Monday, with Nadal extremely likely to choke in the manner of the mercurial Frenchman.

The chief concern was the Murray serve and if he was in any doubt how consistent it would need to be, Nadal let him know by ripping a return winner off his first second serve of the match in game two.

Murray failed to heed the warning and needed some big serving to save two break points in game six.

He looked to have done the same in his next service game but a glaring smash error gifted Nadal the break and the second seed served out the set with ease.

Murray was looking for his first win over four-time French Open champion Nadal, whose three head-to-head successes included a five-set thriller at last year's Australian Open.

The Scot was taken to deuce in his opening service game of the second set but held thanks in part to his first successful drop shot, a tactic his opponent had already used three times to good effect.

The mix of Nadal winners and Murray errors was not encouraging and the Spaniard broke to love in game three when the 12th seed double-faulted.

Nadal's vicious forehand was giving Murray all sorts of problems and the Scot had to call upon three big first serves to avoid the double break in game five.

Murray was looking jaded and the crowd were equally subdued, Nadal's exhibition of power hitting and wonderful winners seeing him break to love in game seven.

There was a chink of light when Nadal let a 40-0 lead slip with a double-fault when serving for the set, but it was the tiniest of blips as the Spaniard took a two-set lead.

Murray was now relying on staging the kind of amazing comeback he produced against Gasquet but Nadal had previously lost only once from this position - to Roger Federer.

Murray was no nearer to solving the riddle of the Nadal serve, against which he had won only a handful of points.

The Spaniard was reading Murray's like a book but the Scot was staying in touch after thanks to a couple of timely approaches to net.

An uncharacteristic error from Nadal opened the door in game four but he shut it just as quickly.

And he had another two break points in the next game, but for once his trusty forehand let him down as the crowd began to get behind Murray.

But the Scot did himself no favours, dropping his serve from a winning position with some sloppy play in game seven.

Now he had to break Nadal to stay alive but he was no nearer in game eight and needed to win the point of the match with a superb pick-up the following game to make the Spaniard serve it out.

But unlike Gasquet on Monday, there was no collapse as Nadal moved ominously towards a third straight Wimbledon final.

Nadal admitted he was surprised to win in straight sets, telling BBC1: "I played probably my best match here. Against a difficult opponent like Andy I tried to play very aggressively all the time, tried to hit with big power and attack his second serve.

"A win like this is always surprising against a player like Andy because he was coming in with confidence after an unbelievable comeback against Gasquet. I'm very happy to be in the semi-finals, especially after beating one tough player like today.

"Probably he felt a little bit tired, it's always tough in the grand slams when you are playing tough matches like against Gasquet, that's normal."

But the Spanish star also praised Murray, adding: "I think he is very good, if he plays tennis like this he's going to be in the top five very soon and for sure he has good chances to win here at Wimbledon."