Eight-time winner Rafael Nadal recovered from a set down to beat Britain’s Andy Murray to reach the Monte Carlo Masters final. Murray broke twice to take the opening set 6-2, but wilted under the Spaniard’s power and accuracy to lose the next two 6-4 6-2.
The win was Nadal’s seventh over Murray in eight meetings on clay and puts him into his 100th ATP World Tour final. He faces Gael Monfils who beat fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 6-3.
Murray beat Nadal for the first time on clay in last year’s Madrid Masters final, but his hopes of being only the third player to earn back-to-back victories over the world number five on the surface were dashed in a brutal two-and-a-half-hour encounter.
It was a match high on quality but also rancour, with both players being irked by some controversial umpiring decisions.
The match began bizarrely when Murray won the coin toss, but umpire Damien Dumusois of France asked Nadal if he wanted to serve.
Nadal pointed out the umpire’s error, but Murray graciously asked for it to be re-done, and he won that, too. This time he was asked his preference and elected to serve.
Murray was irked throughout by a lack of action from the umpire over Nadal continually breaking the 25-second rule between serves. The Spaniard was averaging 31 seconds, allowing him more time to recover.
The Scot’s patience was further tested midway through the third set when Nadal delayed his serve by claiming he had something in his eye. At the next changeover, the umpire asked Nadal if he wanted more medical attention.
Murray felt Nadal was getting preferential treatment and, after dropping his serve, hit the ball towards the umpire’s chair in frustration, prompting Dumusois to say “you have zero respect for what I do”. Murray responded by telling the umpire he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Dumusois eventually gave Nadal a time violation in the final game, but Murray felt it should have been given earlier in the contest.
Asked about his clash with the umpire, Murray told the press conference: “You can draw your own conclusions. I don’t know how much bearing it all had on the outcome.”