ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal edges Andy Murray for ATP final No. 100!

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ThrowbackTimes Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal edges Andy Murray for ATP final No. 100!

In 2016, Rafael Nadal advanced to his tenth Monte Carlo final thanks to a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Andy Murray in one of the season's best matches up to that point! Both players gave everything they had in the encounter that lasted two hours and 43 minutes, with Nadal prevailing after playing better tennis in sets two and three.

Thus, the Spaniard advanced to the 100th ATP final in a career, becoming the sixth player in the Open era to achieve that feat after Jimmy Connors, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Roger Federer. Nadal also joined Federer on the record number of 42 Masters 1000 finals, trying to match Djokovic on 28 titles in Sunday's final.

It was the 23rd meeting between two great rivals, and Nadal claimed the 17th victory, losing to Murray on clay for the first time in Madrid a year ago and having to work hard in this one after Andy's almost flawless tennis in the opening set.

Everyone expected a long and tight encounter between two of the finest clay courters, but the first set passed in Murray's domination, winning it 6-2 after 49 minutes of grueling battle. Andy controlled the points marvelously, keeping Rafa behind the baseline and with no chance to impose his strokes.

The first break came in the sixth game when Murray went 4-2 up to control the scoreboard, taking the remaining two games as well and wrapping the set with a double break. He dictated the points, firing 13 winners and 15 unforced errors, while Nadal left stuck on only five winners and 15 mistakes.

Rafael Nadal beat Andy Murray in Monte Carlo 2016 for ATP final No. 100.

The Spaniard's most worrying thing was that he served at an outstanding 81% and still managed to lose half of the points in his games, unable to find the rhythm or take the upper hand in the exchanges.

Rafa came closer to the baseline in the second set and started to be more aggressive and determined. He pressed Murray's forehand side with immediate results, becoming the one who decided most of the points. Andy's first serve percentage dropped to 38%, which gave Nadal more return chances and momentum.

The Spaniard opened the set in the best way, breaking Murray for the first time in the match before the Briton pulled it back on his third opportunity in the second game. After four comfortable holds on both sides, Nadal delivered another good return game to break Andy and move 4-3 up, fending off two break chances in the next one to confirm the advantage and move closer to a decider.

Andy held in the ninth game on the fifth game point before Rafa brought the tenth game home for 6-4 after precisely two hours. The second set's outcome gave Nadal a massive boost, who had the upper hand in the final set.

The Spaniard was finding the right spots from every part of the court, winning some great rallies that kept his confidence high and sending the pressure to the other side of the court. Andy struggled to find the first serve and got broken in the opening game to chase the result right from the start.

Nadal was now flying over the court, taking 16 points in a row behind the initial shot and not giving the Briton a chance to get back on the scoreboard. Instead, Rafa broke at love in game five to open a 4-1 gap and crack Murray's resistance completely.

At 5-2, Nadal served for the match and faced some troubles, wasting four match points before Andy reached two break chances to prolong the encounter. He couldn't convert any of them, and Nadal sealed the deal after five deuces, propelling himself into the tenth Monte Carlo final in the last 12 years!