ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Andy Murray edges Rafael Nadal to set Novak Djokovic clash

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ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Andy Murray edges Rafael Nadal to set Novak Djokovic clash

The defending champion Andy Murray earned a chance to compete for the third title in Madrid in 2016, beating Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3 after two hours and 11 minutes. In the re-run of the final from 12 months ago, Andy played his best tennis when it mattered the most, fending off 11 out of 13 break points he had to play against and converting four chances on the return to seal the deal after a grueling and exciting battle.

It was the seventh triumph for the Briton over the Spaniard and their last clash so far, never facing again as Andy started to struggle with a hip injury soon after lifting the crowd in Madrid. Nadal won titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, failing to repeat that run in the Spanish capital after hitting almost 30 forced errors, unable to push Andy away from the comfort zone or seize his opportunities on the return, even though Murray served at only 54%.

The Briton had the advantage in the shortest range of up to four strokes, staying in touch with Rafa in the most extended exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets. Due to rain, the match took place under the roof and Murray had the upper hand, with fast first serves and rock-solid backhands that denied the majority of Nadal's attacks and drew a lot of errors from the king of clay.

Andy drew first blood in the fourth game after a backhand error from Rafa, holding at 15 thanks to a loose drop shot from the crowd favorite that sent him 4-1 in front. The Briton repelled two break chances in the seventh game with service winners, bringing it home with a forehand winner to move 5-2 up and closer to the set.

Ready to fight for every point, Rafa held at love and pulled the break back in game nine to reduce the deficit and prolong the action, leveling the score at 5-5 with a forehand winner. Staying focused, Andy held after deuce for a 6-5 lead, stealing Nadal's serve at love with a return winner for a 7-5 after 62 minutes, earning massive momentum ahead of set number two.

The Spaniard wasted break chances at the beginning of the second set, with Murray fending off another two at 2-2 with service winners, holding after five deuces with a volley winner to remain in front. That game became even more significant when he broke Nadal's serve in the next game to open a 4-2 gap, erasing two break points with winners in the next game to extend the advantage.

Serving for the victory at 5-3, Andy netted a forehand to suffer a break, bringing Nadal back into contention and making the crowd in Caja Magica erupting in joy. It was the last push that Rafa made in this encounter, though, netting a forehand to suffer a break at 15 in game ten to propel Murray to his second straight Madrid final, winning only eight matches in Caja Magica before 2015.