Andy Murray of Britain hits a return to David Ferrer of Spain during their semi-final match at the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo. (Photo:REUTERS)
Nadal powered past Mardy Fish in the second set to beat the American 7-5, 6-1 while Murray was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over David Ferrer.
The Nadal-Fish match was on serve until the 11th game in the opening set, when the Spaniard broke and then served out at love at Ariake Colosseum.
The first set was marked my several long rallies, but as the match progressed Nadal took control and imposed his will with a combination of crisp ground strokes and a strong serve.
Nadal, the defending champion, won 85 percent of his second-serve points in the match which lasted 1 hour, 35 minutes. He broke Fish in the first and third games of the second set and held serve throughout. He concluded the match with another break which included a scintillating shot.
Nadal ran down a crosscourt shot from Fish and then whipped a winner down the line that curled just inside the paint to reach match point. The contest ended on the next point on an unforced error by Fish, who hit a smash into the net.
Murray broke Ferrer in the third and fifth games of the first set and never looked back in advancing to his fifth final of the season. The Scot was never broken and closed out the match in 1:21.
Murray, who had the trainer retape his right foot after the third game of the first set, overpowered Ferrer with strong play from the baseline.
One of the highlights for Murray was his quick, reflexive return near the net of a powerful shot from Ferrer to go up 15-0 in the fifth game of the first set.
The fourth-ranked player in the world has won three titles this season, at Queen’s Club, Cincinnati and Bangkok, and lost in the final of the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic.
Nadal holds a 13-4 advantage over Murray in 17 career meetings, including victories in the last five matches. Murray’s last victory over Nadal came last year in the semifinals in Toronto.
Nadal said he played closer to the baseline against Fish and sought to press home his advantage after taking a hard-fought opening set.
“Anytime you lose the first set 7-5, it’s painful,” he stated. “At the beginning of the second set I was solid and he made some mistakes. I played better and he played worse.”
Nadal has a chance of being the first man to defend the Japan Open title since Pete Sampras in 1994.
“Rafa played very well today and the first set was pretty high quality,” Fish said. “It could have gone either way as far as the end of the (first) set, but he picked up his game and broke me at 5-5 and the second set got away from me really quickly.”