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In-form Murray Triumphs Over Nadal

Tokyo, Japan

Murray, Nadal© Getty ImagesAndy Murray recorded just his fifth win in 18 meetings with Rafael Nadal.

World No. 4 Andy Murray continued his hot run of form on Sunday as he produced a blistering display in the final two sets to defeat defending champion Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the final of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

The 24-year-old Murray then became the first double winner on the ATP World Tour this season when he and brother, Jamie Murray, defeated fourth seeds Frantisek Cermak and Filip Polasek in the doubles final. 

The Scot has won 21 of his past 22 matches, taking in titles at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (d. Djokovic) in August, the PTT Thailand Open in Bangkok (d. Young) last week, and now at the ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tournament in Tokyo. His only loss in that period came against Nadal in the US Open semi-finals.

Having also triumphed at the AEGON Championships in London in June (d. Tsonga), Murray becomes the third player this season to win at least four ATP World Tour titles, joining Novak Djokovic (10) and Robin Soderling (four).

"Djokovic set the bar pretty high with his year and his records so far, so I’ve got to try and keep up somehow," joked Murray, who has set himself the goal of surpassing Roger Federer at World No. 3 in the year-end South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings. "I’ve played well in the last few months in Cincinnati and then the US Open. I need to carry on that form in Shanghai. I need to keep up the wins and hopefully I’ll get to the No. 3 ranking. It’s not the ultimate goal, but it’s the target I set for the last few tournaments this year."

Murray made a slow start to his 18th contest with Nadal, dropping his opening service game with a groundstroke error. The Scot began to settle into the match, though, and had Nadal under pressure in the seventh game before the Spaniard held on to close out the one-set lead.

The second-seeded Murray broke through the Spaniard’s defences in the fourth game of the second set, persevering to convert his third break point chance as Nadal hit wide. The Scot then rescued a 0/40 situation in the following game with three straight aces, before saving a fourth break point with a forehand winner and holding for a 4-1 lead. With the momentum growing, Murray broke Nadal again in the eighth game to level the match.

Murray hailed the third set as one of the best he has played against Nadal, whom he lost to in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open this year. The Dunblane native allowed Nadal just four points as he battered the Spaniard with controlled aggression and potent backhands, racing through the set with three service breaks to clinch victory in two hours and 16 minutes. It was just his fifth win over Nadal.

"I played some great tennis, especially in the third set," said Murray. "I had a couple of chances in the first set and was maybe going for too much, going too close to the lines, but once I got that break the roles reversed a little bit. He started going for a little bit more and I was dictating the points playing high-percentage tennis.

"For sure in the third set it was some of the best tennis I’ve played against him. I was very consistent, didn’t make too many mistakes and kept a cool head in the important moments."

World No. 2 Nadal, who defeated Gael Monfils in the 2010 Tokyo final, was contesting his 10th tour-level final of the season and the 66th of his career; he dropped to a 46-20 mark. All his other final defeats this year have come at the hands of Djokovic, including in the Wimbledon and US Open title matches. The Mallorcan was bidding to win his first trophy since clinching a record-equalling sixth Roland Garros crown at the start of June.

“He played unbelievable, he didn’t make any mistakes in the third set,” said Nadal. “He played very aggressive and made no mistakes. When you are playing someone at that level, the only way is to try and get more free points on serve and for me it was impossible today because his return was very impressive.”

Nadal and Murray will be the top two seeds at the Shanghai Rolex Masters next week. Both have already qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November.

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