Mur­ray: I’ve only got my­self to blame

One match too many for Scot as bru­tal Nadal fore­hand snaps omi­nously into ac­tion ahead of fi­nal

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a WEARY andy Mur­ray ad­mit­ted he ran out of steam yes­ter­day as his run in the French Open came to an end in the semi-fi­nals with a maul­ing from eight-time cham­pion Rafael Nadal. The Scot went down 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in an hour and 40 min­utes of bru­tal hit­ting, with his legs sim­ply un­able to do the work needed to keep up with the world No.1.

The sev­enth seed had re­quired four and a half hours longer on court than Nadal to reach the last four in Paris and Mur­ray ad­mit­ted that may have been a fac­tor.

“if it was, i’ve only got my­self to blame be­cause i was in con­trol of a lot of the matches that went longer than maybe they should have,” he said. “if that did have any­thing to do with it, it was com­pletely my fault.

“There were a few too many sets this week in matches where i was up. i could have fin­ished sets quicker, could have fin­ished matches quicker. That’s some­thing dur­ing the grass [court sea­son] and over the next few months that i’ll def­i­nitely need to work on – not let­ting guys back in when i’ve got the match won. That’s some­thing that Rafa has ob­vi­ously done in­cred­i­bly well, es­pe­cially here.”

Mur­ray be­gan the match look­ing to be ag­gres­sive but, with his body not up to the task, he made mis­takes and Nadal took con­trol. The Spa­niard said he played “my best clay-court match this year” and will meet No­vak Djokovic in the fi­nal, a match that will also de­cide who has the world No.1 rank­ing go­ing into wim­ble­don.

Hav­ing equalled his best re­sult in reach­ing the semi-fi­nals in Paris, Mur­ray was des­per­ately dis­ap­pointed not to have per­formed bet­ter, es­pe­cially af­ter push­ing Nadal so close in Rome ear­lier this month.

“i knew it was go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult af­ter­noon be­fore i went on the court,” Mur­ray said. “it was a tough day for me. it was a bad, bad day. i’ll need to bounce back quickly from it.”

The Scot will now head to lon­don and Queen’s Club to be­gin the de­fence of his ae­gon Cham­pi­onship ti­tle on Mon­day.

ANDY MUR­RAY knew what he needed to do. He just could not do it. The Scot’s French Open ti­tle hopes were ended yes­ter­day by the vi­cious left hand of Rafael Nadal, whose un­worldly fore­hand left him stum­bling on the clay, trounced 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.

On the hottest day of the tour­na­ment, when Mur­ray needed his legs to carry him around in search of Nadal’s piledrivers, they failed him, the ex­tra work they had done ear­lier in the fort­night fi­nally tak­ing its toll. In hind­sight, the fact he had played four-and-a-half hours more than Nadal on the way to the semi-fi­nal should have warned him what was to come.

Yet Mur­ray was dou­bly un­for­tu­nate be­cause his lethargy co­in­cided with Nadal hit­ting the kind of ram­pant form that has taken him to the ti­tle here on eight oc­ca­sions and makes him favourite to win a ninth.

There will be plenty of peo­ple, those con­nected to the game and those with just a pass­ing in­ter­est, who will be­lieve that equalling his pre­vi­ous best ef­fort at Roland Gar­ros rep­re­sents a fine per­for­mance from Mur­ray.

How­ever, in the af­ter­math of such a crush­ing de­feat, Mur­ray strug­gled to find much so­lace. “There weren’t loads of peo­ple that would have ex­pected me to get to the semis,” Mur­ray said. “But once you get there you ob­vi­ously want to try and give your­self an op­por­tu­nity and I didn’t give my­self a chance in any of the sets today.

“That’s why I’m dis­ap­pointed, be­cause you want to be com­pet­i­tive. You want to make it hard for him. I wasn’t able to do that.”

It is only eight months since Mur­ray un­der­went back surgery and such is the na­ture of the Tour that, with the ex­cep­tion of Davis Cup, the only real chance to play best-of-five set matches comes in grand slam tour­na­ments.

Per­haps Mur­ray knew that he did not have enough in his legs to last that long and cer­tainly in the open­ing games he was very ag­gres­sive, try­ing to hit win­ners on the Nadal serve.

The tone was set when he rushed into a few mis­takes in his open­ing ser­vice game and Nadal did not need a se­cond in­vi­ta­tion to take con­trol. Slam­ming his fore­hand into the cor­ners, Nadal made Mur­ray drop the ball short time and time again, giv­ing the Spa­niard time to run around his back­hand and whip fore­hand win­ners.

Try as he might, Mur­ray was un­able to get a foothold into the match, al­ways on the back foot and never able to ex­ploit the space Nadal some­times leaves on that fore­hand side. On the odd oc­ca­sion he did have the chance, he missed his mark, but such was the fe­roc­ity of Nadal’s play that he felt pushed into go­ing for more than he per­haps ought to have.

“He played a great match,” Mur­ray said of the world No.1. “He missed hardly any balls. He served

It‘s a good thing that I man­aged to get through some long matches. But you want to make it hard for him. That’s the tough­est match I’ve played against him

very well. His fore­hand, es­pe­cially with the con­di­tions the way they were today, was in­cred­i­bly hard to con­trol the ball. As soon as he was in­side the court, I mean, he was hit­ting the ball so close to the line. He played great ten­nis.”

Mur­ray had been en­cour­aged by the way he had pushed Nadal to the limit in the fi­nal set of their Rome Masters semi-fi­nal ear­lier in the month, a match in which he led 4-2 in the fi­nal set.

But yes­ter­day, Nadal did what he seems to have done here in each of the past three years: turn it on at the right time. “There was a pe­riod I think when he was hav­ing the prob­lems with his knees where ob­vi­ously he started try­ing to play more ag­gres­sive and fur­ther in­side the court and was hit­ting his fore­hand flat­ter,” Mur­ray said. “But today he was hit­ting ex­tremely hard, ex­tremely heavy, re­turn­ing well, and was hit­ting it well on the run. That’s the tough­est match I have played against him.”

Mur­ray will have to get his mind right quickly as he heads home to de­fend his Ae­gon Cham­pi­onship ti­tle at Lon­don’s Queen’s Club, the pre­cur­sor to his Wim­ble­don ti­tle de­fence.

“Phys­i­cally, I have played a lot of ten­nis the last cou­ple of weeks, def­i­nitely the most time I have spent on court in a two-week span in the last six months since I came back,” he said. “So in some ways that’s ob­vi­ously a good thing, that I man­aged to get through some long matches.”

Mur­ray said his chances of hav­ing a new coach in place be­fore Wim­ble­don were “50-50” but said he ex­pects to play well in his ti­tle de­fence, with or without some­one new in his cor­ner.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to go­ing back,” he said. “I think it will give me a lot of pos­i­tive en­ergy. I’m glad I’m back play­ing to a level that was able to get me through to the last stage of slams. I just need that ex­tra few per cent so that I can give my­self a chance to try and win them again. But the grass will ob­vi­ously help me. It’s a sur­face I have al­ways en­joyed play­ing on. It’s been my most suc­cess­ful sur­face over my ca­reer.”

In the fi­nal, Nadal will take on No­vak Djokovic in a match that will de­cide which of the two holds the world No.1 rank­ing on Mon­day morn­ing, as well as whether the Serb be­comes the eighth man to com­plete a ca­reer grand slam.

Djokovic came through an odd semi-fi­nal against Latvia’s Ernests Gul­bis – a match in which nei­ther man hit the heights, leav­ing the Serb won­der­ing about his en­ergy lev­els.

“Mid­way through the third set I started to feel phys­i­cally fa­tigued a lit­tle bit,” Djokovic said. “It hap­pens in the tour­na­ment, and im­por­tant thing for me is that I re­alise what’s go­ing on. It’s noth­ing se­ri­ous. I’m go­ing to have now two days of re­cov­ery and get ready for the fi­nal. I’m glad I won in four sets, be­cause if it went to a fifth, god knows in which di­rec­tion the match could go.”

Djokovic had bet­ter re­cover fast, be­cause be­ing less than 100% against Nadal is not go­ing to get the job done.

Pic­ture: Clive Bruskill/getty

DE­PART­ING WAVE: Andy Mur­ray looks apolo­getic as he leaves Court Philippe Cha­trier to the ap­plause of Rafael Nadal, who dropped only six games.

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