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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 10, 2015


Andy Murray stunned defending champion Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-2, in the Madrid final to capture his second straight clay-court crown.

Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open

Madrid is Rafael Nadal's Masters home court, but it was a sink-hole of self doubt today.

From the first forehand he slapped into the middle of the net to a backhand he butchered so badly it didn't even reach the net, a jittery Nadal battled both spiking nerves and a solid Andy Murray.

The King of Clay was no match for either adversary.

More: Murray Thumps Nishikori in Madrid Semifinals

Exploiting glaring Nadal's nerves and shockingly wayward shots, Murray dismantled the defending champion, 6-3, 6-2, to capture his second career Madrid title.

It is Murray's 10th Masters crown and first on clay as he raised his clay-court record to 9-0 this season.

The third-ranked Scot joins Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Horacio Zeballos as just the fourth man to beat Nadal in a clay-court final.

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days ago, Murray was seeking his first career clay-court title. Last Monday, he defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber in a dramatic 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (4) Munich final to collect his first title on dirt.

Today, he thrashed the nine-time French Open champion on his home turf, winning his second straight clay crown, beating Nadal for the first time on dirt and handing the Spaniard his worst clay-court defeat in a decade.

For the first time in a decade, Nadal will fall from the Top 5. The former No. 1 will drop to No. 7 when the new rankings are released tomorrow and will arrive at the Rome Masters with just one clay-court title to his credit this season trying to rebuild his fragmented form and tattered confidence.

"To play Rafa in Spain is extremely tough," said Murray after accepting the title trophy from Queen Sofia. "This is the reason why we play men's tennis. It's one of the toughest things in tennis to beat Rafa on clay, I managed to do it today."

The two-time Grand Slam champion had a major assist from a ragged Nadal, who struggled to find the court at times committing 26 errors. Typically such a shrewd problem-solver, Nadal could not find the court during some stretches and had little confidence in his backhand at other times. Murray, who spent some of his teenage years training on clay in Barcelona, wisely bled errors from his out-of-sorts opponent.

A nervous Nadal sailed a routine rally backhand wide, ending an error-strewn game to donate the break for 2-0. Murray won 12 of the first 14 points stamping a 3-0 lead.

The poor start was compounded by the fact not not only was Nadal missing, he was often off-balance when striking shots.

Managing the margins was crucial for Murray, who knew he needed to play aggressively. But seeing how shallow Nadal was hitting some shots and how badly he was missing others compelled Murray to play measured baseline rallies at times and wait for his opponent to implode.

An inside-out forehand winner gave Nadal double break point, but he narrowly missed a banana forehand down the line on the first and was burned by a big serve on the second. Murray navigated the pressure, holding for 5-2.

The reigning champion began to find some rhythm. After dropping his opening service game, Nadal threw down three consecutive love holds. The damage was down as Murray fought off another break point with a wide serve and forehand winner. The second seed exploited successive forehand errors to close out the opening set.

Nerves struck again in the opening game of the second set. Eyeing an expanse of open court, Nadal nudged a volley into net to face a second break point. When Nadal netted a backhand down the line, Murray had the break and a 1-0 lead. Ballooning a forehand return well beyond the baseline, Nadal shook his head. Murray slashed an ace out wide holding at love to back up the break.

The Scot had success hitting his returns deep to the Nadal forehand then targeting the Spaniard's increasingly unreliable two-handed backhand throughout rallies. At times, Nadal short-armed that shot as if he little confidence driving through the ball. Matters detiorated so drastically for Nadal, he shanked a backhand so badly it bounced before striking the net as he dropped serve for the second straight time trailing 0-3.

In suffering six straight clay-court losses Nadal, Murray struggled to defend his sometime shallow second serve. Today, the two-time Roland Garros semifinalist changed up his service patterns and took advantage of Nadal's ragged return game, winning 17 of 21 points (80 percent) of his second-serve points and denying all three break points he faced.

Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray

Skidding an ace down the middle, Nadal snapped a five-game slide, holding at 15 for 1-4. At 30-all in the ensuing game, Nadal jerked a rally backhand wide. Murray launched a forehand down the line, holding for 5-1.

The Spaniard's signature shot, his left forehand, was a scrawl by the end as he missed a wild forehand wide to fall to match point. When Nadal shoveled a forehand return into net ending a dismal 88-minute performance, he managed a small smile, while Murray offered a muted celebration.


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