Despite getting started with an ace, it was a long initial hold for Murray as early on David Ferrer set out his stall to push Murray around the court, even putting him under pressure early on with the first break point of the match.
Even though he did settle down to match Ferrer’s love hold, at times he seemed to skid along at the back of the court, if he wasn’t rendered stuck while Ferrer squeaked winners here and there.
He even had his chances to edge Ferrer earlier in the set, but the Spaniard was in no mood to fall for a cheeky attempt at a misdirect. Murray finally grabbed his chance to seal the first set thanks to some wild shots and a nervous double-fault.
But any hopes that Murray was on a roll were quickly dashed as the Spaniard caught him napping at the start of the second set. Although Murray steadied the ship before the first change of ends, it was down to some consistent point-building that the Brit finally got back on course.
Once more it looked as though nerves were glitching Ferrer as Murray built up to a crescendo and it was a fitting final rally with both showing off their retrieval skills to seal the win.
It was a comfortable start for the Brit, and now puts him one win away from clinching the World No. 2 spot, unless Roger Federer goes on to win the title.
Talking after the match he said: “First couple of games my timing was a little bit off. But I got it back pretty quickly, which was pleasing. You know, if you’re looking for a little bit of rhythm, he’s also a guy who makes you hit a lot of balls. The rallies are often quite long, so you can get into a rhythm against him. So that was good.”
He continued: “It would be obviously nice to finish No. 2 because I haven’t done it before, but it’s not a goal that I’d set for myself at the beginning of this year or throughout the whole year really. But the benefits of it, obviously for Australia, being seeded 2 is slightly better than being seeded 3 or 4. Yeah, that’s the main benefit for it rather than something that I’ll be delighted to finish No. 2.”
Rafael Nadal def. Stan Wawrinka 6-3 6-2
For many (including me), Wawrinka is the dark horse of the competition. He was on his way here with some momentum, having reached the semi-finals in Paris. Starting with an immediate break of the Spaniard, we could have been forgiven for thinking he was about to set down his marker.
Nadal’s confidence is returning, shown by matching Wawrinka’s opening break to love with one of his own. There on in the pair settled down until a dogged Nadal turned the screw at the end of the first set, finally coming good on his third break point. It was enough for him to head Wawrinka off at the pass as he took the first set.
Wawrinka seemed at odds with everything, muttering and looking ill at ease, and his mood will not have been lightened by having to pull off a mammoth hold, saving seven break points at the start of the second set, only to succumb in his second service game.
Nadal was striding about with a sense of purpose that had obviously returned to him in the latter half of the year – and as errors continued to spray forth from Wawrinka, apart from the occasional emergency serve, it was Nadal who struck for home.
He really did not have to do much as Wawrinka was specialising in smacking balls far and wide, and anywhere outside the court. Yet if it is about confidence on a surface he freely admits is not his best, Nadal got it in spades while all around the general consensus was that Wawrinka had simply checked out. What had looked to be one of the more tightly contested matches of the tournament so far turned out to be little more than a formality for Nadal, for a 6-3 6-2 win.
Wawrinka had to admit that as well as having had a terrible day at the office, Nadal’s game had definitely been improving.
He said: “Just disappointed in general. I don’t think was great level, was great match. You know, when something goes wrong today, everything went wrong. Just everything went the wrong way.”
He continued: “He’s playing better than few months ago, that’s for sure. You can see the last two months he made some final, played some good match, beat some top-10 guys, playing a little bit more aggressive, staying a little bit more on his line. But still for sure he’s not where he wants to be probably or where he was when he was No. 1 and really strong. But so far he’s been playing better.”
Nadal looked to be happy, despite still contending that this surface was his weakest, and he would prefer a faster level on the court.
He said: “I had a good week of practice here. I think I played the way that I wanted to play. I played aggressive. I played with not many mistakes. Just the thing I can do a little bit better is serving. For the moment I didn’t serve as good as I was doing in the previous days. But for the rest, all the shots worked well: backhand, forehand, good volleys, good smash, no missing the smashes today. So that’s good.”
Nadal will face Murray in the next round robin match, while Wawrinka will play Ferrer.
Main Image Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty
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