Rafael Nadal homeAn archive image showing Rafa Nadal on better form than he displayed against Andy Murray
World number four Andy Murray produced a dazzling third-set display to defeat Spanish defending champion Rafael Nadal 3-6 6-2 6-0 in Tokyo on Sunday night to claim the Japan Open.
After comfortably defeating Spaniard David Ferrer 6-2 6-3 in the semi-final, Nadal became the next victim of Murray's aggressive playing style. Despite Murray's recent good form, highlighted by his success in the Thailand Open only one week ago, Nadal looked the favourite on paper, having defeated Murray in their previous six encounters (including three grand slam semi-finals) and 13 of the previous 17 matches.
Indeed, it was Nadal who certainly started the brighter, his powerful forehand and speed around the court too much for Murray to handle. The early pressure paid off as Nadal managed to break his first service game but there were to be no more breaks in the first set as Nadal closed out the set 6-3.
However, Murray turned on the style in the second set, twice breaking Nadal's service to win 6-2. The pinpoint accuracy of his serving in particular aided his comeback, sending six aces past the helpless Nadal. Murray continued his momentum into the third set, thrashing the world number two 6-0 to claim a memorable victory in two hours and 16 minutes.
The expression on the face of Nadal after the championship point told the whole story; he was shocked and completely hopeless, run ragged by his opposing figure. The match statistics were to emphasise this fact, showing Murray won 11 of the final 12 games, limiting Nadal to only four points in the entire third set.
As ever, the Spaniard was gracious in defeat, praising his opponent's style and technique. "Andy played unbelievable. He deserves the title," he conceded. Murray was equally delighted with his performance claiming that "in the third set it was some of the best tennis I've played against him. I was very consistent, didn't make too many mistakes and managed to keep a cool head in the important moments."
The victory was the 20th singles title of Murray's blossoming career and the Scotsman is determined to surpass world number three Roger Federer in the ATP World Rankings with an impressive performance at the Shanghai Masters later this week. He said: "I need to keep up the wins and hopefully I'll get to the No.3 ranking." Federer is currently out of the game recuperating whilst world number one Novak Djokovic is also absent as a result of a back injury which he sustained in the US Open final.
Murray has often been criticised for his failure to deliver his best tennis at the grand events but he will be hoping that his recent good form can be a springboard for success. The elusive grand slam title could arrive sooner than later.