Andy Murray is into the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships after defeating a rusty Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. Both players started the match quickly with Nadal looking to be more aggressive on serve given his recent back issues. After surviving a tough service game in the third game, Murray used the full width of the court to try and outsmart the Spaniard as he engaged long and entertaining rallies.
The Brit earned his reward by getting the first break of the match for a 4-2 lead as Nadal hit a backhand into the net. Murray’s big serving prevented the 20-time grand slam champion from proving a serious threat on return as another big first serve sealed the opening set 6-3.
Murray once again threatened for the break in the early parts of the second taking advantage of rusty serving from Nadal. But the Spaniard persevered saving four break points in two of his opening three service games. Murray had to overcome turbulence on his own serve as well but managed to dig deep with Nadal failing to find his range.
Despite Nadal gathering steam in the second set with some punishing forehand winners, the Spaniard couldn’t take advantage of his half-opportunities. This would cost him as Murray applied the pressure in the eleventh game and ultimately was rewarded for his aggressive tactics as a backhand passing shot from Nadal went long to hand Murray the 6-5 advantage.
Murray made no mistake in closing out the match as he booked his place in the final as his preparations for the Australian Open have begun positively. As for Nadal he still has the third place play-off to work on his game when he takes on Denis Shapovalov.
Andy Murray v Andrey Rublev H2H & Match Fundamentals
Murray’s key to victory is improve the amount of points won on his second serve return while Rublev will look to do better when saving break points but other than that there is not much to separate the two players.
Rublev had another great season which included reaching two Masters 1000 finals in Monte-Carlo and Cincinnati. Although the Russian’s season lost momentum in the second half of the season, the world number five’s big-hitting game can be tough for any player to break down.
Murray’s defence will once again be put to the test against the all-out power of Rublev although the Russian goes for the high-percentage shots which can result in a flurry of unforced errors. Murray’s angles could trouble Rublev but the Brit will need to make sure to get the first strike in otherwise it will be the Russian’s match to lose. A win would see the perfect end to a great week of preparation for the three-time grand slam champion.
Prediction: Murray in three sets.
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