ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
Murray Marches To Rotterdam Title
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
by ATP Staff|
ATP World No. 4 Andy Murray won the first ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament of the season as he defeated an injured Rafael Nadal 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 in the final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Murray becomes the first British winner in Rotterdam in the history of the tournament - after Tim Henman’s three final efforts in 1999 (l. to Kafelnikov), 2000 (l. to Pioline) and 2002 (l. to Escude) – and receives 500 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points.
Both Murray and Nadal are early favourites to qualify for the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held at London's O2 Arena in November.
In an eagerly anticipated final at the Ahoy Stadium – the first to feature the top two seeds since 1984 (No. 1 Ivan Lendl and No. 2 Jimmy Connors) – Murray saved an early break point against World No. 1 Nadal before seizing the momentum as a rare unforced error from the Spaniard assisted Murray in breaking serve to lead 4-2. The Scot’s forehand was especially ferocious in the first set and there was little Nadal could do to prevent him from taking a one-set lead.
However, an injury to Nadal’s right knee – suffered in the first game of the second set – was to set the tone for the rest of the match. In a bizarre turn of events, there were eight successive breaks of serve from 2-1 as Nadal struggled to serve and compensated by going for broke on Murray’s service games. The high-risk strategy paid dividends in the second set as Nadal levelled the match at one set all – and Murray later joked in the presentation ceremony that the Spaniard was so good as to have beaten him on one leg in the second set.
As the match wore on though, Nadal suffered increasingly. With the Majorcan restricted in his movement and unable to unleash on his serves, Murray took full advantage. The Dunblane native maintained his focus and composure to keep the ball in play, keep Nadal moving and recorded a much higher percentage of first serves (63%) than in the second set (43%) to ease to a 6-0 third set score line after one hour and 50 minutes of play.
"Obviously it's not the way you want to win as I could see Rafa had an injury," said Murray. "I thought the first set was good quality and then at the start of the second, when I saw that he was injured, my concentration and level of play dipped. He made it difficult as he was hitting the ball so hard and being aggressive on every shot to try and keep the points short. It just shows how he good he is that he can beat me on one leg!"
The victory marks Murray’s second straight victory over Nadal, whom he also defeated in the 2008 US Open semi-finals (2-5 head-to-head). It is Murray’s seventh ATP World Tour indoor title; having also triumphed in St. Petersburg (2007-08), ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid (2008), Marseille (2008) and San Jose (2006-07). The right-hander has a 7-2 indoor finals record and an overall indoor match record of 64-16.
It is the second ATP World Tour title of the season for Murray, who defeated Top 10 players Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in back-to-back matches to defend his title in Doha in the first week of the season. The Scot now improves to a 10-5 mark in tour-level finals. He won a British Open Era record five ATP World Tour titles last season – including his first two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies at Cincinnati (d. Djokovic) and Madrid (d. Simon).
"It's been a great week here and I feel like I've played better as the week has progressed," said murray. "After my ATP World Tour Masters 1000 wins, this has to count as one of my biggest victories. I've got a bit of a sore ankle so I'll get some rest this week before heading out to Dubai."
Murray improved to a 13-1 match record on the season, tying in third place with Marin Cilic (also a two-time ATP World Tour titlist in 2009) and Rafael Nadal (13-2) on the 2009 ATP World Tour Match Leaders list. The Scot’s only loss came in a fourth round exit against Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open.
The 22-year-old Nadal, who stands on a career-best 13-2 match record at the start of the season, was bidding for his second tour-level title of the season and his second career ATP World Tour indoor title.
The Manacor resident toiled through three three-set encounters to reach the semi-finals in Rotterdam, before an improved semi-final performance saw him dismiss an ill Gael Monfils in straight sets to reach the final. He was hoping to become the first Spanish winner in Rotterdam and now joins Juan Carlos Ferrero (l. to Hewitt in 2004) as a runner-up.
"I had a problem with the injury but I don't want to talk about that," said Nadal. "Andy played very well today and he deserved to win the tournament. I am very happy with my performance this week. I came here without the best preparation after Australia, so it was a great result for me to get to the final here and I am very happy with that."