ATP Monte Carlo: Nadal overcomes fierce Murray challenge

Andy Murray threatened to achieve his second clay win in a row against Rafael Nadal, before eventually succumbing in three sets

ATP Monte Carlo: Nadal overcomes fierce Murray challenge
Nadal improved his record in Monte Carlo to 57-4 (photo from livetennis.com)

Rafael Nadal advanced to his second final of the season and his tenth in Monte Carlo with a 2-6 6-4 6-2 win over world number two Andy Murray. Nadal will start as favourite to win a ninth title at the tournament against either Gael Monfils or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who play later today.

Impressive start from Murray

The first set was all Murray, the Scot utlising his superb movement and lethal backhand to great effect. The world number two was easily the more aggresive of the two players, constantly forcing Nadal onto the back foot during a set in which he won 52% of points on his opponent's serve. Murray was in complete control of the match, and looked to be on his way to becoming just the third player to beat Nadal twice in a row on his favourite surface, after Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini.

Nadal slowly finds form as Murray drops off

The second set had a remarkable and immediate change in momentum, with Nadal breaking in the opening game. Although Murray broke back moments later, Nadal had got the encouragement he needed, and the tide began to turn.

Murray started strongly but was unable to subdue Nadal (photo from atpworldtour.com)
Murray started strongly but was unable to subdue Nadal (photo from atpworldtour.com)

With Murray's first serve percentage dropping to just 39% in the second set, he was always going to be fighting an uphill battle, and Nadal managed to wrest control of the match by breaking Murray a second time, and serving out the set, 6-4.

The eight-time champion was really beginning to find his form now, and as his forehand began to click, he began to race away with the match. Murray had recovered his first serve percentage to 52%, an undoubted improvement, but far from being enough against Nadal in this sort of form on clay.

Nadal to play for 28th Masters title

Nadal broke twice more in the final set to seal what had earlier seemed an unlikely victory. He improves his head-to-head record against Murray to 17-6, and will play for his first Masters title for almost two years tomorrow.

Despite the defeat, there were positives to take for Murray. The Scot had an impressive clay season last year, and after a couple of poor matches in the early rounds looks to be playing himself into similar form in 2016.

For the victor, the chance at a ninth Monte Carlo Masters title beckons. Few would bet against him from claiming it.