Nalbandian didn’t offer much resistance in the first set and 17 unforced errors helped Murray to a triple break to wrap up the set in just 42 minutes.
The tide changed in the the second set and the former world no.3 Nalbandian started to reduce errors from the baseline and use the width of the court a lot more to move Murray around. The Brit’s percentage of first serves dropped to a mere 42% and he paid for it when serving to stay in the set at 4-5 down. The Argentine had the first break point opportunities of the set and with Murray producing a forehand unforced error on the third one, the Rome crowd was going to witness a decider.
Both players tested each other with several dropshots throughout the match that were highly effective on the much slower red clay (in comparison with last week’s blue clay in Madrid). It was Murray who had a couple of chances to take Nalbandian’s serve in the third game of the third set, but the Argentine managed to save both of them and break Murray in the very next game for a 3-1 lead. However, the Brit regained focus as he broke right back and the set was back on track. Some spectacular rallies kept the crowd at the edge of their seets and one way or another, the difference at the end was going to be marginal. After Nalbandian clawed back 2 of the break points, Murray got the most fortunate net cord on the last one to secure the break. When serving for the set, he managed to save two break points himself and sail to a great victory.
Murray will face the winner of the match between the Frenchman Richard Gasquet and Italian wild card holder Paolo Lorenzi next.