MONTE CARLO, April 17 (AFP): Rafael Nadal needed to produce one of his most stunning performances on clay on Saturday to edge an injured Andy Murray 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 and book a place in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters.
For the 15th time in the last two decades, a Spaniard will figure in the title match at the Country club, with six-time winner Nadal bidding for a seventh straight title here against compatriot David Ferrer.
The Spanish fourth seed earlier ended the surprise run of Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2, a day after the Austrian had put out Roger Federer.
Nadal needed just shy of three hours to go past Murray, who was reportedly nursing an injured right elbow and who received treatment in the third set after putting up a titanic struggle in the first two sets.
The Spanish world number one did lose his first set in Monte Carlo since the 2009 final against Novak Djokovic, however, as Murray turned in a fighting effort.
�It�s a fantastic victory for me,� said Nadal. �It was a very, very difficult match. It�s a dream to get to another final here. �This is a great start to the clay season. I�m very pleased, it�s good for me.�
Nadal has now won 36 straight matches in the principality heading into his clash with Ferrer, who he has beaten 11 times in 15 encounters.
Murray fought a 65-minute opening set, going down in the end but rallying well in the second with an attacking game that left Nadal puzzled as to the best response. Murray won a marathon 19-minute game, saving five break points for a 3-1 lead and finally levelling the match after a huge effort.
But as a pre-match pain-killing injection began to wear off, Murray�s level dropped, with Nadal able to close out a hard-fought win with little resistance in the deciding set.
�I didn�t know up until (the final minutes) whether I was going to play or not,� said Murray.