Murray outplayed by Nadal in semis

 

Flushing Meadows

It has been the best year of Andy Murray’s career but his latest Grand Slam campaign ended in familiar fashion here last night.

Having beaten Murray in the semi-finals of three Grand Slam tournaments in the previous 14 months, Rafael Nadal denied the 24-year-old Scot at the same stage once again, winning 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to book a place in tomorrow’s US Open final against Novak Djokovic.



Despite the inevitable disappointment, Murray could be proud of the way he fought back after being outplayed in the first two sets. After becoming the first player to take a set off Nadal here this year, the world No 4 had a chance to get his nose in front in the fourth set, only for the Spaniard to hold firm and then resume control.



In reaching the last four Murray had joined an elite group of seven Open era players who have played in the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year, but his ambition of landing one of the game’s great prizes remains unrealised. He is unfortunate to be playing in an era dominated by two of the finest players ever in Nadal and Roger Federer, with Djokovic snapping at their heels.



After the fireworks in Djokovic’s remarkable comeback victory over Federer earlier in the day, the second semi-final felt like a damp squib when Nadal took a two-set lead. Arthur Ashe Stadium, which had been alive with excitement two hours earlier, was quiet for long periods as the defending champion quickly took command.



Murray had beaten Nadal in four of their nine previous meetings on hard courts – including their semi-final here three years ago and their quarter-final in last year’s Australian Open – but the Scot looked ill at ease in the early stages. He tried to attack but did not always make the best decisions and frequently berated himself at the back of the court for failing to carry out his game plan properly. When he did create chances he failed to take them.



The world No 4 recovered from 0-30 down in his first two service games but could not do so a third time. From 0-40 down at 3-3 Murray saved two break points, the second of them with a superb cross-court backhand, but on the third a mishit forehand gave Nadal the first breakthrough. As Murray knows all too well, the world No 2 is a great front-runner and Nadal took the set by dropping only one point in his next two service games.



Having failed to take his only break point of the first set when leading 3-2, Murray missed out on three more opportunities when 1-0 up in the second. On the third the Scot manoeuvred himself into an excellent position to hit a winning backhand down the line, only to put the ball in the net.



Three games later Murray was made to pay for not making the most of his chances. He saved one break point with a smart volley, but when he tried to repeat the play on the second he punched the ball wide. At 2-4 Murray saved three more break points, but Nadal outrallied him on the fourth and went on to serve out for the set.



Murray has come back to win matches from two sets down on six occasions and raised real hopes of a comeback by winning the third set. He started to play more conservatively, attacking only when he had opened up the court, and broke serve for the first time in the second game. Despite dropping his own serve in the following game, he continued to work his way back into the match and broke again to lead 5-3 before securing the set.



At this stage Nadal was starting to look tired, while Murray began the fourth set with a new spring in his step. In the second game a thumping backhand earned him a break point, which he failed to convert when netting a routine backhand.



It proved to be a major turning point. Nadal eventually held serve and went on to break in the following game after Murray hit a forehand long when going for a winner. Murray, who was troubled by a sore back in the latter stages, bravely held serve from 0-40 down at 1-4, but was unable to repeat the feat two games later. After embracing his opponent and friend at the net, Nadal leapt in the air in delight at setting up a second successive final here against Djokovic.



“I think the first two sets were probably crucial,” Murray said afterwards. “I had chances to go up a break in the first and the second sets and didn't. I was playing better in the third and fourth sets. I had a chance to go up in the fourth but didn’t quite take it. Obviously then I managed to hang on relatively well right until the end. It was a tough match because I think both of us had quite a lot of chances.”



Murray felt he played “smarter tennis” in the latter stages. “I was maybe going for too many big shots at the beginning of the match,” he said. “Then in the third and fourth sets I started being more patient and started picking the right moments to come forward.”



The Scot said he continued to believe that he has it in him to win a Grand Slam title. “I've still got hopefully three or four more years where I'm playing the tennis at my peak,” he said. “I need to stay healthy and improve, because if I don't then it's going to be difficult to win one. But if I do, then I'm getting a little bit closer each year. This year was the best year for me in the Slams.”

Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific