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Rogers Cup ATP
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By Alberto Amalfi
© Natasha Peterson/Corleve

(August 13, 2010) A red-hot David Nalbandian carried a career-best 11-match winning streak into today's Rogers Cup quarterfinal against Andy Murray, but looked like a man carrying a weighted racquet bag on his shoulders as the speedy Murray consistently beat the burly Argentine to the ball.

Winless in two prior meetings with Nalbandian, Murray produced some of his most convincing tennis in months in carving up the Washington, DC champion, 6-2, 6-2, at the Rexall Centre in Toronto.

Defending champion Murray needed just 69 minutes to extinguish Nalbandian and will try to turn up the heat on Rafael Nadal in Saturday's blockbuster semifinal.

World No. 1 Nadal was not nearly at his best, but withstood a break point serving a second serve at 2-3 in the final set and held off Philipp Kohlschreiber, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours. Nadal said he needs to lift his level of play if he is to beat Murray in a clash of former and current champions. Nadal beat Murray, 7-6(2), 6-3, in the 2008 Rogers Cup semifinals and went on to win the title that year.

"(I have to do) a lot of things well if I really want to have a chance to win," Nadal said. "I had an amazing summer so I think I can do it. But Andy, especially on this surface, is one of the best opponents you can play against. Surely I am here in semifinals so that is a very good hard court start."

Nadal holds an 8-3 edge over Murray, including a straight-sets sweep in the Wimbledon semifinals last month, but Murray beat Nadal in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.

"I need to serve well against him and get free points off your serve," Murray said. "I love playing Rafa. Every time I play against him, it's always good fun so I look forward to it."

On a cool, breezy afternoon in Toronto, Murray took command of the match with his first serve and first forehand combination in cornering Nalbandian into defensive positions on court.

In a match between two of the best returners in tennis, Murray was nearly untouchable on serve. He served 67 percent, hit eight aces and saved the only break point he faced with an ace in the sixth game of the match.

"(It's) the best I've played in a long time," Murray said. "I served really well, which was really the key."

Playing even more slowly that he typically does, a deliberate Nadal could not make inroads into Kohlschreiber's serve in the first set.

The 5-foot-10 German was nine for nine on first-serve points in building a 4-1 first-set lead.
Kohlschreiber hit an ace to hold at 15 for 5-2. Kohlschreiber cracked a backhand winner down the line and used a feeble forehand into net from an emotionally-muted Nadal to reach set point. Rocketing a first serve that rattled Nadal's racquet, Kohlschreiber took first set, 6-2.

"Philipp played well in the beginning," Nadal said. "I start to play very slow. I make him play well easy so I was a little bit lucky in the beginning of the second set because I was not playing well."

Since losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final in January, Murray has gone 2-6 vs. top 20 opponents. While Nalbandian entered the match ranked No. 45, he has been playing like a top 10 player with wins over 12th-ranked David Ferrer and fifth-ranked Robin Soderling this week.

If Nalbandian planned to control the center of the court as he's done for much of his winning streak, he got a rude surprise as Murray came out hitting bigger and more aggressively, particularly off his weaker forehand wing.

Asserting his authority early, Murray broke for a 2-1 lead. Nalbandian is one of the best ball strikers in the game, but was so out of sorts he actually whiffed on a forehand swing trying to back up to catch up to a deep Murray drive. A frustrated Nalbandian stared at his Yonex racquet for a moment, but could not find a solution for Murray, who worked out of a deuce game holding with a service winner for 3-1.

Murray broke serve again for 5-2 and sealed the first set with an emphatic ace down the middle.

Muttering to his coach, Luis Lobo, between points, Nalbandian could not get himself on track. The former World No. 3 banged a forehand into net and screamed in frustration dropping serve in the first game of the second set.

Murray whipped his fifth ace wide then buried a serve into Nalbandian's hip to hold
at love for 3-1.

The normally rock-solid reliable Nalbandian two-handed backhand let him down as Murray made him pay for a conservative backhand approach. Nalbandian's backhand collided with the top of the tape and scattered wide as he dropped serve at love handing Murray a 5-2 lead.

The fourth-seeded Scot raised his hard-court record to 16-5 as he continues his quest for his first tournament title since winning Valencia last fall.


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