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Nadal Battles Past Murray In Rome Reunion

Rome, Italy

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Andy Murray served up a bagel set the last time he faced Rafael Nadal, three years ago in the Tokyo final.

On Friday, Murray picked up where he left off when the pair renewed their rivalry in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but was unable to hold off the seven-time Rome champion in the end. The World No. 1 battled back to win 1-6, 6-3, 7-5, setting a semi-final meeting with 12th seed Grigor Dimitrov.

The seventh-seeded Murray, who had taken just one set off of Nadal in their previous four clay-court meetings, raced out to a 5-0 lead as he converted his two break point chances and saved the three faced. Murray served out the first set after 38 minutes, after Nadal held to avoid his first bagel set since playing Roger Federer at the 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Nadal saved a break point to open the second set, and finally converted on his fifth opportunity against Murray to take a 2-0 lead - the only break of the 52-minute set. Nadal won 100 per cent of his second serve points and all 12 of his points at the net.  

After exchanging breaks to start the third set, Murray broke to go up 4-2 after Nadal had fought back to deuce from triple break point down. The Mallorcan immediately recovered his serve and claimed the decisive break to love, 6-5. He pulled ahead 14-5 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

Nadal had reached the quarter-finals with two battling victories. He prevailed against Gilles Simon in three hours and 19 minutes - the longest best-of-three-set match this season - and came from a set and a break down to defeat Mikhail Youzhny.

This is the first time since 2005 Rome that Nadal has won three straight decisive-set matches on clay in the same tournament. 

The Spaniard had rebounded from quarter-final exits in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona to win the Mutua Madrid Open title, needing to rally from down against Kei Nishikori in the final.

"He finished the match incredibly well," said Murray. "The last three games he was physically a little bit stronger than me at the end. Apart from that it was a good match."

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