Today - From 1pm, BBC
FOR the second consecutive Grand Slam tournament, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray meet at the penultimate stage. But, while the Spaniard had the upper hand on the clay courts of Roland Garros, winning their French Open meeting 3-0, we can expect a much closer contest on the grass of SW19’s Centre Court.
Murray has not had the best of success against Nadal in the past and trails in head-to-heads by 11 to four. In the pair’s five Grand Slam meetings Nadal leads three to two. Of their two meetings on grass, both at Wimbledon (in the quarters in 2008 and at this stage in 2010), Nadal won in straight sets each time.
Yet the gulf in class between Murray and Nadal is smaller than ever. After a fairly slow start, with his professional dismantling of Richard Gasquet and Feliciano Lopez — two talented players with contrasting styles — Murray has shown that he is arguably the best returner of serve in the game. The difference between success and failure therefore depends on getting his serve right, and he is serving solidly. His 61 aces so far compares favourably to Nadal’s 38, but it is the percentage of points won on Murray’s first serve (83%) that shows how important it is for the Scot to serve well.
Crucially, Murray has improved steadily throughout the tournament, most recently allowing himself just 11 unforced errors against Lopez, down from 19 in his second round match against Tobias Kamke. Without taking anything away from Nadal’s last opponent, if Mardy Fish can take a set off the Spaniard, then a disciplined Andy Murray can certainly win this match. At 7/4 with Coral, I’m willing to back Murray to do so and therefore become the first Briton to make the All England Club final since Bunny Austin in 1938.
Whatever the outcome, I believe that this contest will go the distance. Sporting Index quote a fairly high 39-41 total games, but there is little downside to buying — neither player is likely to be racking up any ‘bagels’ in this one. I also think that the longer the match goes on the more it favours Murray as I have a suspicion that Nadal is playing down the foot injury he suffered against Juan Martin Del Potro on Monday. It was deemed necessary for Rafa to be jacked up with painkillers for his match against Fish and although he showed no signs of discomfort then the injury may be exposed when Murray sends him to all corners of the court in long rallies.
Supposing Murray does progress, I don’t see anything in the other semi-finalists to overly trouble him. Novak Djokovic appears far less at home on grass than on any other type of court, while Murray beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga recently in the final at Queen’s. With just a hint of patriotism, but more based on the fact that the Scot is playing the best tennis of those remaining, I advise getting on Andy Murray to end 75 years of hurt and win Wimbledon, at 9/2 with Betdaq.