It will be a Big Four match today when Rafael Nadal faces Andy Murray in the finals of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open. Both players are looking at making a mark and have a lot riding on the match. While Nadal is the twice defending champion, Murray will be looking at his second clay-court title of this year following his victory at the Munich Open earlier this month.
Both players have faced each other multiple times before with their last meeting in the semifinals of the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi in January. World No. 4, Nadal was handed a crushing defeat as he lost 6-2, 6-0 in the season’s unofficial curtain raiser. Murray, ranked World No. 3, went on to win the championship when three-time defending champion, Novak Djokovic withdrew after coming down with a fever. Nadal got his only singles victory this season when he won the Argentina Open in February, by beating Juan Monaco in the finals.
Nadal and Murray’s rivalry may not be the thing of legends, but both players have had an eventful year so far. Nadal has been struggling with his form, while Murray has won seven consecutive matches on a clay-court.
Rafael Nadal’s Odds
Today’s match might be in Nadal’s favor with betting odds at 1/3 according to a betting website versus Murray’s odds at 9/4. These odds may stem from their previous match history, with Nadal having won 15 of their 20 ATP encounters since 2007. Nadal has always performed well on clay, and today’s match could be seen as his preparation for Roland Garros, where he is the defending champion, having won it five times in a row since 2010 and nine times in the past 10 years.
The aggressive Spaniard is known for his court covering skills, which were demonstrated when he easily beat Tomas Berdych 7-6 (3), 6-1 in yesterday’s semi-final match. Nadal though, has had issues with his form. He skipped the latter part of the 2014 season due to injuries, but did not bounce back as was expected. He has lost seven matches this season and twice on clay. This year also stood out for him, because it is the first year since 2005, when he has won only one title going into the fifth month of the season.
He has said on several occasions that injuries have kept him from winning matches and was the leading cause of his sliding ranking, but he also said that he was feeling better and his performance has improved since the season began. The “King of Clay” said that he has been playing at a good level and the past week had been fantastic for him. In a BBC interview he said, “I am very happy, very satisfied and it is a great result to be in the semi-final. I have passed an important test.”
Andy Murray’s Season so Far
Murray knows that when he walks on the court today, he will not be the crowd favorite. He has spoken about the pressure he would feel today and has said that it would be difficult for him to win the match as everyone would be supporting Nadal.
Murray is a man of many firsts. He was the first British singles champion to win at the olympics after beating Roger Federer at the 2012 London Olympics. In 2013, he became the first British player to have won the Wimbledon Championships since 1936. This year, Murray became the first British player since 1976 to have won on clay when he emerged victorious in the Munich Open final. He also became the first British player to have more than 500 wins in the Open Era. In his semi-final match against Kei Nishikori, world number five, Murray hit 24 winners. He has also won two out of the three final matches he has played against Nadal.
Murray has won the Madrid title previously in 2008, and has been in fine form since the beginning of the season. He was runner-up in the 2015 Australian Open where he lost against Novak Djokovic in the finals.
While Murray’s performance will be closely watched, the crowd favorite Nadal, has a lot to prove in today’s match as their rivalry comes to the fore. People have been commenting about Nadal’s losing streak on clay. He has already lost thrice on clay this year. Murray has been having a good year so far and what he called his best ever season on clay.
In the women’s singles, Petra Kvitova beat Svetlana Kuznetsova to win her second Madrid Open title. Kuznetsova was struggling with a leg injury while Kvitova claimed her 16th career title.
By Anugya Chitransh
Photo by Christopher Johnson from Globalite Magazine – Creativecommons Flickr License
Rafael Nadal’s photo by mirsasha – Creativecommons Flickr License
Andy Murray’s photo by Bevis – Creativecommons Flickr License