A spellbinding quarter-final contest is scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, as world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and British No. 1 Andy Murray clash for the first time since the Tokyo Open in 2011. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 13-5.
In a day full of upsets, top seed Rafael Nadal restored order in the ranks, as he rallied from a set down to dispatch Mikhail Youzhny in three sets. Rafa lost the opener in a tiebreaker, but quickly recovered to find the necessary opportunities and opening required and stormed through the second set 6-2. He would quickly jump to a 3-0 lead in the third set, and would extent his lead to 4-0 with ten consecutive games.
Andy Murray, who is celebrating his birthday on Thursday, defeated Jurgen Melzer to reach the quarter-final round of the Italian Open. It was a relatively straightforward victory, as the Briton secured a 7-6(1), 6-4 win. The only pressure Murray faced was in the opening frames of the contest, where he had to fight back from a break down to force a tiebreaker – which was a near-flawless performance.
“This week I wanted to play solid tennis as much as possible. I did a pretty good job today. [Without the wind] it was a lot easier to build the points and have a specific game plan. I did a decent job. There’s some things I’d like to do better. [Clay] is a surface that takes me time to get used to the movement.”
Next for Murray is a match-up against Nadal, whom he holds a losing record against but holds a win in their most recent meeting at the 2011 Tokyo Open. Murray has been unfortunate on clay so far this season, as he lost to Santiago Giraldo last week in Madrid and will now have to contend against the clay court king on Friday.
“I’d love to play against him,” Murray told Sky Sports. “It’d be a great match for me with the French Open just around the corner, because I’ll see exactly where my game’s at and what I need to improve. I haven’t played him for a long time, regardless of the last time on clay. I didn’t play him at all when Ivan [Lendl] was coaching me. Both of our games will have changed in the last three years.”
It has been well over two years since the last time these two elite competitors have met on the tour, and much has changed over that period. Both players have since won numerous Grand Slam titles, been sidelined and recovered from respective surgeries, and withstood turbulent periods on the ATP tour. As things currently stand, Nadal will likely be a heavy favourite in this upcoming match, but I would not be surprised to see a competitive contest, and a potential deciding set.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets