At the beginning of 2009, world no. 1 Rafael Nadal took another big step towards ultimate tennis glory, conquering his first Australian Open title and holding three out of four Majors. Rafa had to dig deep in the last two encounters in Melbourne, spending nine and a half hours on the court against Fernando Verdasco and Roger Federer to claim five-setter triumphs and add another notable crown to his already impressive collection at the age of 22.
Taking a week off, world no. 1 was back in action in Rotterdam, losing in the second round a year ago and hoping for a better run this time around. The winner of only one indoor hard title from Madrid 2005, Nadal survived stern challenges against Simone Bolelli, Grigor Dimitrov and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, spending eight and a half hours on the court in those three matches to lose energy and stamina.
In the semis, the Spaniard defeated Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4 for the first ATP indoor final since Paris 2007, facing Andy Murray in the battle for the trophy. After an hour and 51 minutes, the Briton prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, with nothing left in the tank for Rafa in the decider, despite winning set number two.
It was the tenth ATP title for the 21-year-old and already the seventh on an indoor court, getting broke four times and securing seven breaks from 12 chances to topple Rafa and emerge at the top. Thanks to that deciding set where he had the clear upper hand, Andy finished the encounter with more winners and fewer unforced errors, outplaying Rafa in the shortest range up to four strokes and standing on the level terms with world no.
1 in the more extended rallies to earn the title in style. Nadal wasted a break point in the third game when his backhand landed wide, spraying another backhand slice mistake at 2-3 to suffer a break and push Andy in the lead.
Serving at 5-3, Murray held with an ace down the T line for a hold at love and the first set, wanting more of the same in the rest of the encounter. Rafa received treatment on his right knee after the third game of the second set and grabbed a break in the game that followed when Andy netted a backhand.
The Briton pulled the break back in the very next game thanks to a deep return that Nadal failed to control, returning to the positive side of the court before the Spaniard broke again with a well-constructed attack that sent him 4-2 up.
A return winner provided another break for Nadal at 4-3 but it wasn't enough to take the set at that point, getting broken in the next game to keep Murray alive. Still, the Briton lost the ground in his games completely in those moments, losing serve for the third time at 4-5 to hand the set to Rafa ahead of the decider.
As it turned out, that was all that Nadal had in the tank, spraying a backhand error to lose serve at the beginning of the third set at love, with Murray cementing the advantage with a service winner in game two. A wild forehand cost Nadal the third game, falling 4-0 down after an ace from Andy who soon built a 5-0 advantage after securing another break.
At 30-30 in the sixth game, Murray landed two unreturned serves to seal the deal and celebrate the tenth ATP title and the second consecutive victory over Rafa after the US Open last summer.