Murray and Nadal meet for the first time since Murray beat the Spaniard in the Madrid Masters to claim his first clay court title. It has been no secret that Nadal has struggled with his confidence throughout the season, but he has picked up in the latter part of the season, and took full advantage of a very lacklustre performance from Stan Wawrinka.
Murray took a little time to find his rhythm in his opener against David Ferrer, but sealed a comfortable straight sets win over the Spaniard, and will feel some confidence in his scheduling this time around. He is more rested and prepared but with the prospect of the Davis Cup final coming, he will want to try and keep his energy.
On the table is the prospect of Murray securing the World No. 2 ranking, although he admitted that it was more a ‘nice to have’ in readiness for the Australian Open.
Murray will need to lock in his return, that was a little off at times against Ferrer, but with Nadal now picking up his form in recent months and the way his forehand was firing in his opener, Murray will need his serve to be on form, and sharpening up his own returns to go toe-to-toe with the fifth seed.
This could be a pivotal match for Murray as Nadal was the potential tipping point for his advance through the group stages as Nadal was the unknown quantity based on Wawrinka’s momentum. With the Swiss very off-key on Monday, the group dynamic rests with this pairing and it would be no surprise for this to be the first three-setter of the tournament – something that the tournament needs.
A dark horse for the tournament for many, it was a very sub-par performance by Wawrinka and he will need to find the momentum he had coming into the tournament, and smartly if Ferrer’s determination was anything to go by.
Ferrer was perhaps unfortunate not to take more advantage of Murray’s time to adjust, and despite his own straight sets lost, he will be looking to snap a three match losing spree against Wawrinka, dating back to 2013.
Wawrinka will have to tighten up those errors he was freely handing away against Nadal, if he wants to stand any chance of making another semi-final, and admitted that nothing was working for him after his initial break of Nadal’s serve. He will look to stop Ferrer from being able to mix up the points – while the Spaniard may not have as much power or an aggressive approach, his speed around the court burned Murray on more than one occasion.
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