Wimbledon - Brutal Nadal shatters Murray's dream
Rafa Nadal delivered another display of remarkable mental fortitude and brilliant shot-making to withstand an early assault from Andy Murray and beat the home favourite 5-7 6-2 6-2 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon final on Friday.
The top seed and defending champion will play Novak Djokovic on Sunday after ending Murray's bid to become the first Briton to win the title in 75 years.
Fourth seed Murray played a brilliant first set to get the Centre Court crowd buzzing but the Spaniard took it in his stride and, combining his famed big-match temperament and incredible consistency, fought back for a fully-deserved victory.
It took him to his 13th grand slam final in which he will bid for his 11th major title and third at Wimbledon.
The victory continued the remarkable Wimbledon run of the Spaniard, whose last defeat in the tournament came in the 2007 final against Roger Federer. Nadal won it in 2008, missed 2009 through injury but came back to triumph again last year after also beating Murray in the semis.
"It's a dream to be back in the final. I'm very happy," Nadal said after congratulating Murray for his spirited effort.
The Briton had come out for his third successive Wimbledon semi-final and third grand slam semi of the year full of attacking intent and quickly had the Centre Court crowd buzzing as he went for his shots at every opportunity
Nadal was also solid, though, and neither serve was threatened until, out of the blue, Murray broke to love to take the first set and raise a roar from fans desperate to see a first British champion since Fred Perry won his third title in 1936.
With Murray fully focused and Nadal looking to work his way back into the match, things seemed to turn in the fourth game of the second set. Nadal was struggling at 15-30 and 2-1 down when the pumped-up Briton sent an easy forehand long.
Instead of pressuring for the break, Murray went on to lose the game, sparking a run of seven successive games for the Spaniard that won him the second set and gave him the early initiative in the third.
"He had an important mistake, an easy forehand, that was probably one of the turning points of the match," Nadal said.
Despite sending five rackets out to be restrung, Nadal maintained his relentless groundstroke assault while Murray's radar was faulty and another break and superb serving enabled Nadal to sweep through for a 2-1 lead.
Murray needed to rediscover his early fire but he was ragged again in the first game of the fourth set when a tentative volley allowed Nadal to send a backhand pass screaming under his nose on the way to another early break.
Murray never looked capable of stopping the flow as Nadal, who also beat him in the French Open semi-finals this year, cranked up the pressure with his relentless accuracy and variety of shot and broke immediately in the fourth set with another stunning pass.
Murray saw a chink of light when he earned a rare break point in the fourth game. The crowd sensed the importance of the moment and urged him on but Nadal, as ever, dealt with the pressure wonderfully to see off the danger.
Murray was unable to threaten again and the left-handed champion won the match when he crashed a trademark forehand down the line on his second match point.
After the victory Nadal was full of praise for his opponent, who he described as the best player he had ever faced who had not won a grand slam title.
"I think Andy played a very high level especially the first set and the beginning of the second," said Nadal, who made only four unforced errors in the last three sets.
"Seriously I felt he was better player than me at that moment, so I just waited for my moment.
"He probably lost a little bit the intensity of the beginning but to play like he played in the first set is not easy. He played really complete tennis.
"After that I think I played little bit better and I played probably my best match here this year here."
Murray was frustrated with his own error count but said he was happy with his approach.
"I was playing very high-risk tennis for most of the match. I went for it today, and I started to make a few mistakes after that," he said.
"It's been a good tournament. It could have been better today. If I'd hit it like I did in the first set throughout the match, I think it probably would have been a slightly different story.
"At the same time, when you're playing high-risk tennis you're going to make mistakes. He raised his game and started playing better and capitalised on it."