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Nadal, Murray Ready For Battle

Paris, France

Nadal, Murray© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal and Andy Murray go head-to-head in the semi-finals.

Having not played each other for more than two and a half years, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are set to meet each other across the net for the second time in three weeks in the Roland Garros semi-finals on Friday.

In their final ATP World Tour event before competing at Roland Garros, Nadal and Murray contested the quarter-finals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, with the Spaniard edging it 7-5 in the third set. It was their first meeting since the 2011 Tokyo final and saw Murray produce some of his best tennis since returning from back surgery at the start of the season.

“I’m not surprised Andy is in the semi-finals,” said Nadal, who turned 28 on Tuesday. “He's a candidate to win Roland Garros.  Before the tournament he was a candidate to win Roland Garros for me, so it's not a surprise. He was playing much better in Rome, I think. It was a very, very tough match against him. A good one for me, too. An important victory for me. 

“It will be a big match and a big challenge for me. I’m going to try my best. I know I have to play very well if I want to have chances to win.”

Reflecting on the Rome match, Murray said, “I definitely learned some things in that match. It was quite clear in my head what was working and what wasn't. It was obviously different conditions here and a different court, different balls and stuff. When we played in Rome it was extremely cold. It was raining and it was wet. I have been told it was meant to be 25 or 26 degrees on Friday. 

“So conditions change, which makes a match slightly different, as well. But there are some things I learned in that match that hopefully I can use to my advantage on Friday.”

Murray is attempting to become only the second man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros. The Spaniard has a 64-1 event record, with his only defeat coming against Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round. Nadal is looking to win an unprecedented fifth successive Roland Garros title this year and ninth overall. He takes a 14-5 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Murray into Friday’s clash, having won all five of their clay-court meetings.

“Always playing against Andy is a big challenge,” said Nadal. “Always it’s a pleasure at the same time. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great guy. He's a great competitor. It’s great to having him back on his top level, playing again the semi-finals of a Grand Slam after an injury. I’m happy for him, because he deserved it.”

The 27-year-old Murray is through to the Roland Garros semi-finals for the second time, having fallen to Nadal in straight sets in 2011. He is bidding to win his third Grand Slam championship this week, adding to victories at the 2012 US Open and Wimbledon last year.

“It's definitely a big achievement, but that's not what I came here to do,” said Murray, who missed the last three months of the 2013 season after undergoing back surgery. “My goals are different and my expectations are different to a lot of people. 

“I expect a lot of myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well at these events, and thankfully I have done okay so far. There’s still hopefully a long way to go in the tournament. I obviously know how to win these tournaments now; [in 2011] I didn't. I was trying extremely hard, but I had never done it. So hopefully that will give me a little bit more confidence and belief when I go on the court on Friday.”

Leading into the semi-finals, Nadal has averaged 65 per cent of first serves, winning 73 per cent of the points behind those deliveries. The left-hander has converted 62 per cent of the 63 break points he has created thus far. Murray has created 91 break point opportunities, converting 36 times, and has employed aggressive tactics, hitting 88 forehand winners and 60 backhand winners.

Here's a closer look at their 2014 Roland Garros stats:

NADAL
CATEGORY
MURRAY
2
Aces
29
3
Double Faults
17
65%
1st Serve Percentage
55%
73%
1st Serve Points Won
69%
63%
2nd Serve Points Won
55%
8
Broken
20
31
Break Points Faced
47
64
Games Served
96
88%
Service Games Held
79%
122 mph
Fastest Serve
132 mph
52%
1st Return Points Won
40%
60%
2nd Return Points Won
54%
39
Breaks Of Serve
91
63 (62%)
Break Points (Pct. Converted)
91 (40%)
65
Return Games Played
97
60%
Return Games Won
37%
64
Forehand Winners
88
45
Forehand Unforced Errors
95
21
Backhand Winners
60
45
Backhand Unforced Errors
107
109
Winners
212
94
Unforced Errors
222
53/68 (78%)
Net Points Won (Pct.)
86/122 (70%)
61%
Baseline Points Won
49%
34
Games Lost
81
1
Sets Lost
5
10:11
Time On Court
14:47

Statistics courtesy: IBM

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