From Times Online
January 26, 2010
Rafael Nadal blown away by 'unbelievable' Andy Murray
Nadal sits dejected after he was forced to retire after two sets with Murray well on top
Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne
Unbelieveable. Rafael Nadal repeated his word for good measure. Unbelieveable. Not that he stopped a match in midstream which is about as un-Rafa like as anything you will see on a tennis court - but his description of the levels attained by Andy Murray on Rod Laver Arena today. Two more performances like this and a little bit of grand slam stardust will surely be sprinkled on the Scot.
Nadal quit on his stool, a boxing analogy made all the more redolent in that Ricky Hatton had flown in from Hong Kong to watch at first hand a man who proved that his hands are every bit as swift and destructive as Hatton’s own. And Nadal does not do quitting. In Rotterdam last February, with both his knees burning, he played through the final against Murray, losing the final set 6-0 and then refusing to discuss his ailment lest it should be considered an excuse.
It was the same yesterday; a tweak to the Spaniard’s right knee at the end of the second set, exacerbated by the state of the match - Murray was about to take decisive command - only this time the choice was made to shake on it. Why risk any further damage with hard court tennis stretching ahead as far as the eye can see? In the front row of his box, Toni Nadal, Rafa’s coach, asked him not to play on. The world’s most famous sporting nephew did his uncle’s bidding.
To see the back of Nadal at any event is both a horrid blow for the tournament and a blessing for the opposition. Murray would have preferred to complete the job in the time-honoured fashion but his 6-3, 7-6, 3-0 retired scoreline is every bit as definitive as if all the loose ends had been tied up. As a preparation for a semi-final tomorrow night against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, it could not have been sweeter. Murray played magnificent tennis, most especially when he faced Nadal at the heights of the intensity he brought to a match he said had so much riding on it.
Murray knew it, too. Though the Spaniard’s form against the very best has suffered of late, he does not give up a title without shedding the last vestige of effort and the opening exchanges were extreme in both the physical and the tactical sense. Nadal broke first with a brutal backhand winner after a forehand had opened up Murray; the British No 1 responded in kind with a backhand lob on the third of his break points in the subsequent game. He saved three futher break points in the next game, twice choosing to volley behind the serve, a tactic that was to bring rich dividends. A further break in the sixth game secured a foothold that needed to be underpinned by saving three further Nadal break opportunities in the ninth game.
The match did not need further fireworks but this was Australia Day and on Australia Day fireworks are a ritual. Incomprehensibly, the match was halted for a quarter-of-an-hour after five games of the second set, so the sky could be lit up. Murray said he felt his body stiffen, the sudden halt allowing cool air to invade and play tricks with his muscles and bone. He dropped serve. It might have been a match-turner but Nadal was unusually hesitant, tossed in a double fault, scuffed a backhand to give Murray two points to break and he needed just one, thanks to a devastating backhand crosscourt winner.
“It was just quite strange,” Murray said. “You can’t imagine in like a football World Cup quarter-final or something of that kind, being stopped stopping in the 60th minute when they say ’there’s a few fireworks, just hang on.’ Your body gets used to the match, we’re conditioned to play four hours or so but if you take a break for ten minutes on these courts, your body starts to tighten up because it is not like playing for an hour and 45 minutes against Rafa is the easiest thing to do anyway.” Even this turn of events, however, did not faze Murray. He might have been in a position to serve out for the second set had Nadal not roused himself to avert another four break chances in the eleventh game but it was during one of the outstanding exchanges that marked the game that he felt something tweak in his knee. Murray breezed the tie-break 7-2 - as secure as Fort Knox under the high ball and as eager as a dingo to devour anything short.
After six points of the third set, Nadal raised his arm to stop play and called for the trainer, who kneaded his fingers into the muscles around the Spaniard’s right knee. Only twelve more points were played, four of which were aces from Murray ranging from 207 to 212kmh before Nadal was gesturing again, this time that he wanted to shake hands. The players hugged at the net. A brilliant match had been brought to a sad stop.
Sad, that is, unless you like your victories in tennis to be Murray ones.