Among the remaining four he was the lowest seed still standing, but that only made Andy Murray’s job of giant killer that much more enjoyable.
At least he said it was enjoyable.
Murray, playing his best tennis of the season, survived a mid-second-set lapse after a near perfect first set. He then quickly regrouped from that hiccup to end Rafael Nadal’s run in Toronto and hand the Spaniard just his fifth loss on hardcourts in 24 matches this season.
Of course, one of those four previous wins belong to Murray, who had a two-set lead on Nadal in the first grand slam of the season in Australia before Nadal retired trailing 3-0 in the third because of knee problems.
This time around, Nadal went the distance but with the same result.
The loss by Nadal yesterday ended hopes of a Nadal-Roger Federer final, which everyone in tennis seems to covet these days, but in fairness to Murray, he was clearly the superior player yesterday and very much deserving of his spot.
“You never expect to beat the best players in the world, but I think if I play my best tennis like I did today, I have a very good chance against all of them,” a strangely subdued Murray said after his win.
Murray didn’t crack a single smile as he answered questions about his match. Even more strange, he kept referring to how “enjoyable” this tournament has been, due in part to the fact that he is without a coach at the moment. He sounded like a man and in no hurry to fill that coaching void.
“I don’t want to just pick someone or choose someone right before the U.S. Open and make a mistake,” Murray said. “I’d rather play like I’m playing just now and have people around me that I know and enjoy being with so you can have ... so you’re enjoying yourself, for one. Then I will sit down after the U.S. Open and think about what I want to do.”
If that was Murray enjoying himself in the aftermath of a huge win, one can only imagine what he’s like when things aren’t going so well for him.
In any event, now that he has disposed of Nadal, even as the No. 4 seed here he should go into today’s final (weather permitting, showers are in the forecast) with an edge.
His opponent — Roger Federer had some trouble with Novak Djokovic before winning the later semifinal — was just getting started as Murray headed back to his hotel for a good night’s rest. And Murray has a better track record in head-to-head matches with Federer on hard court (6-5).
In his matchup with Nadal, Murray had a clear advantage with his serve, as his nine aces to Nadal’s two had will attest. Nadal had a better percentage of first serves than Murray, but 82% of the time Murray got his in, he won the point. Nadal’s success rate was just 62%.
The win by Murray was only the fourth in 12 career meetings that he has got the better of Nadal, but the second time in three tries this season.
With the win, Murray holds on to his No. 4 ATP ranking. Had he lost, Sweden’s Robin Soderling, who lost in the round of 16 to Argentinian David Nalbandian, would have leap-frogged him and grabbed the No. 4 seed.
Not only is there no chance of that happening, but by Sunday night he may just be looking at back-to-back titles here at the Rogers Cup.
Maybe then he’ll let his guard down and enjoy the moment just a little bit.