LONDON, November 18 – Rafael Nadal was in imperious form as he crushed Andy Murray at the World Tour Finals on Wednesday with an impressive 6-4, 6-1 victory at London’s O2 Arena.
The Spanish fifth seed was dominant as the British world number two’s game fell apart in front of a home crowd at the 17,800-capacity venue.
The first set was a high-level contest featuring impressive rallies and smart drop shots, but in the second, Murray’s game fell away as Nadal turned the screw.
Whether Nadal goes through to the semi-finals depends on the result of Wednesday’s second match in the four-man group, when world number four Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland takes on Spain’s seventh seed David Ferrer.
Both Nadal and Muray are contesting their seventh Finals, the season-ending tournament disputed between the top eight players on a hard court.
Neither has ever won the competition: Nadal finished runner-up in 2010 and 2013, while Murray reached the semis in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Nadal went into the match leading Murray 15-6 in career clashes between the two. Murray had also never beaten Nadal in their four prior encounters in Britain.
But the Scot won their only previous match of 2015, beating Nadal on his home soil — and his favourite clay surface — in the Madrid final.
– Murray’s second set collapse –
Murray broke Nadal in the first game but the Mallorcan broke straight back thanks to some mishits from the Briton.
At 2-2, Murray rummaged around in his bag, produced a pair of scissors and chopped off part of his fringe.
He then tried to get Nadal on the run with some drop shots but the Spaniard was equal to the task, responding in kind by sending his opponent scampering around the court.
At 2-3 down, Murray held off a break point twice and saved two break points at 3-4 down as Nadal’s pressure began to tell.
Eventually Murray cracked when serving to stay in the set. Nadal fashioned three set points and broke to love, sending the Briton chasing round the arena and swiping at fresh air.
In the second set, Murray made 16 unforced errors to Nadal’s three and won just 10 percent of the points on his second serve as the Spaniard raced away with the match.
Murray lost his first service game, double-faulting twice. The Briton looked a little lost as to how the match was falling away, muttering to himself.
Nadal sealed victory in an hour and 31 minutes with a forehand cross-court winner.
The match was watched by members of the Argentina rugby team, World Cup semi-finalists earlier this month, ahead of their match against the Barbarians invitational side at Twickenham on Saturday.
Murray will still be certain of finishing the season at number two, the highest year-end ranking of his career, if he beats Wawrinka in Friday’s final round of group stage matches, while Nadal faces compatriot Ferrer.
After the World Tour Finals, Murray will lead Britain’s bid for a first Davis Cup win since 1936. Britain face hosts Belgium in the November 27-29 final on a specially-laid clay court in Ghent.
In the other group, Roger Federer has already qualified for the semi-finals, while world number one Novak Djokovic needs to beat Tomas Berdych in his last round-robin match on Thursday.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori could join Federer in the semis if he beats the Swiss great.