High-risk plan fails to pay off as Murray exits

Andy Murray admitted he got his tactics wrong after crashing out of Wimbledon at the semi-final stage for the third year in a row.

Just as it had been 12 months ago, it was top seed Rafael Nadal who ended the Scot’s dreams of becoming the first British man since Bunny Austin in 1938 to reach the Wimbledon final.

This time Murray won the first set and looked to have a real chance of beating the formidable Spaniard, but errors crept in and in the end Nadal ran out a comfortable 5-7 6-2 6-2 6-4 winner to advance to a clash tomorrow with Novak Djokovic.

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Murray has been criticised in the past for being too passive and yesterday he felt he went too far in the other direction, with a tally of 39 unforced errors telling its own story.

The 24-year-old said: “You can beat him by playing patient. When I’ve beaten him in the past, at the US Open and the Australian Open, I played a little bit more patient. (Yesterday) I maybe got the balance a little bit wrong.

“But you need to try to find a way. Each time you play against one of the best players you need to play slightly differently because they’re going to change their game against you. You have to make adjustments.”

A first set full of tension and quality turned Murray’s way in the final game when he engineered the first break points, three of them, and took the second when Nadal sliced a backhand into the net.

At the time it seemed like the Centre Court crowd were witnessing the start of a classic Wimbledon encounter and Murray had another chance in the fourth game of the second set.

At 15-30, the 24-year-old had an easy forehand putaway to create two break points but he missed it, and it would prove to be a crucial moment.

Nadal held and then broke Murray when the Scot threw in a double fault and a shanked smash, and he did not win another game until the third game of the third set.

By now the Spaniard was firmly in control and he went on another run of five successive games to move a break ahead at the start of the fourth set.

The crowd were as flat as their man but they made a last effort to lift him and he responded, forcing two break points in the fourth game. Nadal, though, was playing at an extremely high level and swiftly took away Murray’s hope.

The 24-year-old at least saved the first match point with an ace to avoid being broken again but Nadal was not going to falter and he clinched victory with a classic forehand winner.

Murray did not feel the whole match swung on the earlier missed forehand.

He said: “It was a big point. I was playing very high-risk tennis for most of the match. I went for it, and I started to make a few mistakes after that.

“But you can’t talk about a match that goes almost three hours being decided based on one point. But that point was one that I should have won for sure.”

Murray saw the trainer at the first change of ends about the hip flexor injury he suffered in his quarter-final win over Feliciano Lopez, but he did not feel it was a major problem.

“My hip was sore right at the beginning of the match,” he said. “After I saw the physio, took a painkiller, it was fine. I hardly felt my hip after that.”

Yesterday’s defeat was Murray’s fifth in either the semi-finals or final of a grand slam in the last two years but he tried to take the positives.

He said: “It’s tough. But I’m giving it my best shot each time. I’m trying my hardest. That’s all you can do. I’m disappointed.

“But normally, after four or five days, bar Australia in the last couple of years, I’ve recovered relatively quickly from losing because I’m just trying to get better.

“I feel like I’m playing better tennis than I was last year at this point.”

Murray has now been in seven grand slam semi-finals without going on from one of them to pick up a title.

It was also the third time he has made the last four at SW19 without reaching the final.

Nadal thinks, however, that it is only a matter of time before the 24-year-old wins a major.

“I don’t think he needs anything more, he is playing well,” Nadal said. “All he needs is probably a bit more luck.”

In Djokovic, Nadal will face a man who has already beaten him four times this year.

For that reason, the Majorcan is expecting a hard final against a player who began the year with a 41-match unbeaten run.

“It’s always a tough match against Novak,” Nadal said. “It’s really difficult. He has played fantastic all season. He has only lost one in the whole season and I have already lost four times against him so it will be really difficult but I will try my best as always.”

Nadal admitted he felt “sad” for Murray. The Spaniard, who counts Murray as a close friend, was happy to have reached the final but conceded that he felt sorry to have vanquished the hopes of Britain’s No 1 on home soil again.

“I feel sad for Andy. I think he deserves to be in the final. I wish him the best for the rest of the year. This match was tough for him,” the Spaniard said.

Nadal came back in style after losing the first set, producing his best tennis of the tournament to move into the final.

“I think I played very well to win,” Nadal added.

“Against Andy I have to play my best to have any chance and that’s what I had to do.”