Murray set for Nadal masterclass

Briton to play world No 1 in semi-finals after battling through two matches in a day

Andy Murray began the clay-court season with the modest ambition of reaching his first quarter-final on his least favoured surface. By 11.30 yesterday morning here at the Monte Carlo Masters, with the Mediterranean sun beating down, the 21-year-old Scot had reached his target by beating Fabio Fognini 7-6, 6-4.

More than nine hours later, under floodlights and in front of a crowd shivering in the cold and dark, he had surpassed it with victory by the same score over Nikolay Davydenko.

Murray, who must overcome a blistered hand and possible fatigue when he faces the ultimate test against Rafael Nadal in today’s semi-finals, had never previously won three successive matches on clay and agreed that the victory over Davydenko was his best performance on the surface. It also continued his remarkable run, Murray having reached the semi-finals or better at six of the last seven Masters tournaments, winning three of them.

A former world No 3, Davydenko has slipped to No 9 after being sidelined with a heel injury, but a three-set victory in the morning over David Nalbandian had confirmed he was in decent shape. The 27-year-old Russian had won four of his previous seven matches against Murray.

Twice a French Open semi-finalist, Davydenko returns well, moves like lightning and is usually a model of consistency, though 58 unforced errors were down as much to his own rustiness as to Murray’s ability to keep forcing him to play the extra shot. Murray retrieved almost everything Davydenko could throw at him, slid into his shots with confidence and hit the ball cleanly throughout.

“I wasn’t necessarily hitting a lot of winners, but I wasn’t making that many mistakes,” Murray said afterwards. “It’s been a long couple of days and I’m very happy to come through it.”

The first set took an hour and 17 minutes. Murray broke when Davydenko served at 3-4, only to drop his serve in the following game. Davydenko saved two set points at 5-6, but his resistance crumbled in the tie-break.

Davydenko recovered to lead 4-1 in the second set, breaking Murray twice as the Scot became increasingly troubled by blisters on his right hand. A wounded Murray, however, can be dangerous and he won the last five games. He converted his third match point just before 9pm, nearly 10 hours after walking on court to face Fognini.

That match had been called off with the world No 4 leading 7-6, 1-0 in the rain the previous evening. Murray had been unhappy with Thursday’s scheduling, complaining that he had been given only 45 minutes’ notice of a rearranged start time. Once again he started slowly, losing the first three games, but quickly rediscovered his stride, winning five of the last six games.

Nadal also had to win twice yesterday, beating Nicolas Lapentti and Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets.

The world No 1 may still be finding his feet again on clay, but since 2005 he has lost just four of the 140 matches he has played on his favourite surface and won four French Open titles. Murray has beaten him twice in the last nine months, though Nadal won their last meeting, a Masters final in Indian Wells last month, and their only previous match on clay, in Hamburg last year.

Asked about Murray’s threat, Nadal said: “We are talking about the world No 4, who has chances to be No 3 because he doesn’t have to defend a lot of points in the next weeks. It’s always a really tough match against him.”

Murray said he was looking forward to the match. “It will be a great learning experience,” he said. “I’ll obviously have to have a very solid game plan and try and execute it as well as possible. It’s been a long day today, so I’ll try and recover as best as possible for tomorrow, go out and give it my best shot.”

Novak Djokovic meets Stanislas Wawrinka in the other semi-final. Djokovic, making a staunch defence of his No 3 ranking, beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, while Wawrinka saw off Andreas Beck.

* Carl Maes has resigned as the head of women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association “for personal and family reasons”. The Belgian, who used to coach Kim Clijsters, had overseen good progress by Britain’s women in his two and a half years in charge.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
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.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam