From what looked like a confident start with an opening break of serve from the Brit soon turned into a grueling nightmare as Nadal set himself up for a commanding lead at the top of the group.
Recovering the break immediately, from that point it always seemed to be him in charge of the points as he hustled Murray around the court mercilessly. From the start of the match he succeeded in pulling the Brit out of position, moving extremely well and hitting aggressively.
On the few occasions that Murray did try and shorten his points he saw the fleeting rewards, but much like Djokovic the day before, nothing seemed to be going right for him.
His trademark patience in building up points before going for the kill resulted in him winding u his forehand and sending it flying long and free. In truth at times Nadal did not really have to do much for the breaks.
After the match he admitted that he could not hope to get away with that against an in-form Nadal.
“I think that he was hitting the ball extremely well today from the back of the court. From the middle till the end of the second set he played extremely well. But I didn’t really help myself. I served poorly at the end of the first set and all through the second.
“That’s not going to be good enough against him when he’s playing that well. But, I mean, he’s won way more matches the last few months. He’s come back from tight situations which is signs he is getting back to where he wants to be. I’m sure, even now, but beginning of next year, he’ll be playing at a very, very high level again.”
There is no doubt about it, the Spaniard’s confidence continues to grow, and with the prospect of his countryman David Ferrer next, it is highly likely that Nadal will finish top of the group.
He said: “[It] is an important victory obviously because that put me in a good position to try to be in the semifinals, and at the same time I have a big day against a great player in a tough surface. Just want to try to keep working the same way to keep confirming that I am in the completely right direction.”
From the initial exchanges, it looked as though this would be a little more competitive, but Ferrer was the first to strike with a break, pushing out to a 5-2 lead.
He must have thought he was half way home, especially after surviving the first two break points on his serve, but Wawrinka was soon on a roll as he reeled off five games in a row. Having hurled his own racquet around at the start of the set, it was Ferrer’s turn to take it out on his tool of choice.
As has been the way, certainly today if not the whole week – a tight first set is usually followed by a swift capitulation and this was certainly the case. Wawrinka was by far a very different beast to the one we saw two days ago, as he hurtled out to a 5-1 lead.
Both players have been named in our predictions as dark horses and while Wawrinka’s canter to the line was stemmed briefly as Ferrer notched another game up on the board.
Were nerves getting to our leading prancing pony? One unbelievably botched overhead would suggest yes. Drama was to come as Wawrinka’s shot on a third match point sailed just long. Ferrer with no challenges left shook hands at the net, while the clandestine challenge on the screens in the media centre showed it was just out.
We could wonder what might have been, but it was a long way back for the gritty Spaniard, once Wawrinka locked into his range.
Now it will come down to a straight shoot out between Wawrinka and Murray for the spot in the semi-finals when they come for the final round-robin stages on Friday.
The final round-robin matches for Group Stan Smith take place on Thursday with Roger Federer v Kei Nishikori, not before 2pm and Novak Djokovic v Tomas Berdych, not before 8pm (all times GMT)
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