May 10, 2015
‘This is why we play tennis.’
Andy Murray talked like he could hardly believe it. But then again who could?
Murray beats Rafa Nadal 6-3, 6-2 on clay? So easy! Was this a dream?
For Murray, yes. His tenth Masters title and first on clay. Later he said: ‘It was an incredible atmosphere, to play Rafa in Spain in extremely tough and this is why we play tennis, to do things like try to beat Rafa on clay.
Rafa, whose career has taken a nightmare turn. admitted: ‘Congratulation Andy, you were much better than me today so all the best for Rome and Roland Garros.’
No one saw this coming – and not just because Andy Murray’s inferiority complex against Nadal has been acknowledged at times over the years even by members of the Brit’s own family.
Those doubts won’t be expressed again any time soon. And the much-loved Nadal faces a monumental task to maintain his supremacy at Roland Garros in a few short weeks’ time..
Meanwhile Murray fans will have to be asking themselves why their hero shouldn’t now be able to stun the world and win Roland Garros to add to his US Open, Olympic and Wimbledon titles.
True, there was no pressure on Murray in Madrid, few gave him a prayer, because his head-to-head against Nadal was 5-15 in favour of the more celebrated star. But that wasn’t the scariest statistic counting against Murray.
He had never beaten Nadal on clay – EVER – and it swiftly emerged that he would never have a better chance. Six defeats on this tricky surface seemed to have been erased from the Scotsman’s mind as he appeared to relish the sheer ease of his unlikely success.
The Spanish crowd quickly fell silent as Rafa won just one of the first ten points and played like a man with the world’s cares on his shoulders.
Murray began with a first-set lead over Nadal, so casual that it surprised everyone. The Spanish favourite only won one of the first ten points and soon wondered how he could recover from a 1-4 deficit. There were audible gasps of dismay from the Madrid crowd as Murray took control.
However, Rafa had two break points at 2-4 to move the momentum back onto serve – but Andy stayed strong. Nadal had snatched at too many big points in the opening set and even though he had another break point at 3-5, he was always chasing the match. Wimbledon’s 2013 Champion maintained enough composure to serve out and wasn’t finished there.
Few would have bet against Nadal storming back at the start of the second set, yet he was broken in the very first game, to more audible gasps, this time of horror. By the time he was 1-5 down, even the most passionate Rafa fans had realistically given up hope.
The Spanish Royal Family and a packed Madrid crowd waited to see how their revered hero would respond to the crisis. He didn’t, beyond clawing back a token game. Murray had created astonishment in Rafa’s supporter’s, and perhaps even his opponent.
Incredibly, Nadal’s home fans were simply too stunned to get behind their man as Murray unleashed all his talent against Nadal at last.
This was, eventually, the cruel exposure of one of the world’s greatest players, who is struggling to recapture his best tennis. It was also an exhibition match for Murray, who was able to show at last what he can do on clay, no longer shackled by the pressure of expectation.
The irony is that all the pressure will fall on Murray at Roland Garros, precisely due to what he has achieved here.
No matter. Murray has just achieved something he has never managed before. And he is fully entitled to savour the moment. Has he lost since he got married? Time for all tennis fans to smile in amazement.