Murray is left disconsolate by defeat to Nadal

Andy Murray was left to rue another missed opportunity at Wimbledon as Rafael Nadal posted a straight-sets victory to set up a final with Tomas Berdych on tomorrow.

Hopes were high the Scot could better his semi-final defeat of last

year and become Britain's first men's singles finalist at the All England Club since Bunny Austin in 1938.

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But the world No 1 was simply too strong on the big points, wrapping up a 6-4 7-6 (8/6) 6-4 victory in two hours and 22 minutes.

There were only seven points between the players, with Nadal winning 98 to Murray's 91, and the fourth seed was left with the disappointment of knowing the chances were there and he had not taken them.

He said: "I had chances in all of the sets. I haven't seen the stats, but I would guess it was the difference of maybe five or six points in the match.

"I don't feel like I played terribly. I've had some good wins against Rafa where I played great tennis. But he played great, and that was the difference. There's a great player in the final."

Criticism of Murray when he has got to the latter stages of grand slams in the past has centred on a perceived passivity that allowed his opponent to take control of the match.

The Scot, though, felt he got his tactics right yesterday and was simply frustrated that he could not execute them quite well enough.

He continued: "You're not going to be able to play every single point on your terms against the best player in the world, one of the best players ever. You can't.

"You're going to need to go through periods in the match where he can be dictating, and there were periods in the match where I was dictating. It was tough.

"The one thing I didn't do particularly well was return. His serve is a lot harder to return than a lot of people think. There's a lot of slice, a lot of spin, and it's heavy. But the rest of my game was good.

"I'm sure the stats will say I came to the net more than I did in any of the other matches, I served and volleyed more than I did in any of the other matches, I was going for a little bit more.

"That's how you have to play against him. It just didn't quite work."

There was a real sense of anticipation among a packed Centre Court, including former England football captain David Beckham, and a huge cheer erupted when Murray won the first point of the match.

The Scot more than held his own in the opening stages, serving impressively and asking questions of Nadal.

Both players knew how important the first set was and it was the British No 1 who cracked first, sending a forehand wide to allow his opponent to claim the crucial break.

The second set saw the tension crank up another level as Murray threw everything at Nadal in search of that elusive break, which ultimately would not come.

The tie-break appeared to be a must-win for the fourth seed and he had a great chance when Nadal uncharacteristically double-faulted at 5-5. But he made up for it, playing superb tennis to save the set point, and then capitalising fully on a net cord before serving it out to put one foot in the final.

Murray gave his supporters some hope by breaking to love in the first game of the third set but when Nadal piled the pressure on at 4-3 he cracked again.

The writing was firmly on the wall at that point and there was an inevitability about the way in which the second seed broke again to claim victory, dropping to the turf in celebration as his opponent cried tears of disappointment.

Murray has always said the pressure of trying to end Fred Perry's reign as the last home winner of the men's singles trophy does not affect him on court, but that does not mean the pain of another near miss is any less acute.

He said of the pressure: "It's not a valid excuse to make. I've played really well the whole tournament. I obviously want to win for myself. I want to win for the guys I work with. I want to win for the UK.

"It's a little bit more disappointing than other grand slams because this one is the biggest one of the year for me. It's tough, I'm upset."

Nadal was fulsome in his praise for Murray and described the victory as one of the best of his career. The Spaniard said: "When I play against him I always see the match as very, very difficult, because he makes the very difficult things very easy.

"He has a good serve and his movement is unbelievable from the baseline. He looks like he always knows the way that you're going to play. For that reason I think it's one of the biggest victories in my career today."

Czech Berdych showed his giant-killing act against Roger Federer was no fluke by beating new world No 2 Novak Djokovic to reach his first Wimbledon final.

The 24-year-old 12th seed overpowered his Serbian opponent 6-3 7-6 (11/9) 6-3 in yesterday's first semi-final.