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.”

Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Boxer Amir Khan will travel to Pakistan in bid to 'make a difference' in the wake of army school massacre
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture