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Beyond the Baseline

Rafael Nadal flattens Andy Murray to reach his ninth French Open final

Rafael Nadal took advantage of a fatigued Andy Murray, who had played several five-set matches before this. (Dan Istitene/Getty Images) Rafael Nadal took advantage of a fatigued Andy Murray, who had played several five-set matches before this. (Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

PARIS -- No. 1 Rafael Nadal completely overwhelmed No. 7 Andy Murray, needing only an hour and 40 minutes to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in the French Open semifinals.

Nadal dominated every aspect of this match, but especially his service games. The world No. 1 won 49 of his 59 serving points, losing only four of his first-serve points, and he never faced a break point. The Spaniard won 83 total points to Murray's 43, which is pretty incredible in a sport where the loser can actually win more points than the winner.

There was no doubt that Murray was drained after his last three matches -- two of which went to five sets. Nadal has only dropped one set in the entire tournament, to David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.

With the victory, Nadal improves his career record at the French Open to 65-1 (the lone loss coming in 2009 to Robin Soderling), and he'll face off in the final against Novak Djokovic, who ousted Ernests Gulbis in four sets in the first semifinal. After seemingly easy semifinals for both men, we can only hope for what will be a classic matchup in the final.

Click here to watch the match highlights.

Here's Nadal's post-match press conference:

[embed]http://youtu.be/TORX8qcNebw[/embed]

And here's Murray's press conference:

[embed]http://youtu.be/B1ZmO9gF4Vs[/embed]

Game-by-game analysis of Nadal-Murray below.

Third Set

11:54 a.m. ET | Rafael Nadal defeats Andy Murray 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to advance to his ninth French Open final.

In a match we thought would be fairly competitive, Nadal is through in an hour and 40 minutes against Murray. He was unbeatable today. He won 91 percent of his first serve points, hit 24 winners and 15 unforced errors. Mercilessly he was six for six on break points. Murray was able to win just 11 points receiving, hitting 11 winners and 26 unforced errors.

So it will be No. 1 and No. 2 in Sunday's men's final, with a lot of history and the No. 1 ranking on the line.

11:41 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks again, leads *4-1.

There's another break for Nadal. Murray just slowly marching towards the inevitable.

11:33 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks, leads *2-1.

Unlike Djokovic earlier, there's no mercy from Nadal today. He breaks Murray early in the final set and this one is going to be quick.

In that second set Nadal didn't lose a point on his first serve, going 14 for 14. Murray hit just one winner to 10 unforced.

Sorry, Andy. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Sorry, Andy. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Second Set

11:20 a.m. ET | Rafael Nadal wins the second set and leads 6-3, 6-2.

I didn't think Nadal could win a set quicker than he won the first one against Murray but that took just 31 minutes from Nadal, who is just picking Murray apart.

11:16 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks, leads *5-2.

It's all running away quickly for Murray. He gives up another break and it's the unforced errors that aren't helping his cause. He's hit 19 unforced in the match to just 7 winners.

Nadal will serve for a two sets to love lead.

Andy Murray has yet to win a pro title on clay. (Darko Vojinovic/AP) Andy Murray has yet to win a pro title on clay. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

11:10 a.m. ET | Murray holds, trails *3-2.

A trade of holds, with Murray having to work hard after building a 40-0 lead and holding at 30.

11:00 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks, leads *2-1.

The two exchange easy holds and then Nadal gets the break. Murray just not moving as dynamically as he needs to. Hitting flat footed and Nadal is confident. You can tell because he's running around to hit the forehand every chance he gets. This is all uphill for Murray.

First Set

10:49 a.m. ET | Rafael Nadal wins the first set 6-3.

Nadal gets to 30-all on Murray's serve but the Brit steps up with a big hit and then holds with his second ace of the match.

Nadal steps to the line to serve it out and he does in just 34 minutes. Not much to say about that set of tennis other than Nadal was en fuego with his forehand and Murray just didn't have an answer and when he tried to take control of the rally he was missing balls.

10 winners and 7 unforced for Nadal. 6 winners and 9 unforced for Murray. But the errors came at all the wrong times for the Brit.

10:39 a.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads 5-2*.

Better hitting from Murray and he gets an easy hold at 15. But Nadal cruises to a hold too. Nadal isn't letting Murray do much but when he's had his openings to take a crack at the ball he's missing more than making. "No legs!" Murray yells at himself. He's spent more than four hours more than Nadal on court through five matches.

Nadal has already worked up a lather. Sweat is dripping off his nose like a waterfall.

Nadal giving Murray nothing. (Michel Spingler/AP) Nadal giving Murray nothing. (Michel Spingler/AP)

10:30 a.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads 4-1*.

Murray gets on the board with a good hold at 30. Hit some good forehand there and the key for him is whether he can get both his forehand and backhand cracking down the line. He needs a good serving day today. Double-digits in the ace column has to be the goal. The fewer rallies the better.

Nadal holds. It's just been 18 minutes and Murray's muttering.

Unbelievable that NBC isn't showing this match live. Why buy the rights?

10:24 a.m. ET | Nadal breaks and holds, leads 3-0*.

The first question being heavily debated is whether the heat will help Nadal or Murray. One one hand it speeds up the court and that plays into Murray's game, making it easier for him to get pace on his shots and hit through Nadal. On the other hand, Nadal's topspin forehand really kicks when the court is dry and hot, which obviously plays into his strengths.

A few good deep winners from Murray off both wings to start the match but also a few ill-timed errors. Nadal gets a break to start and consolidates easily. The Rafa forehand is firing.

Rafael Nadal is bidding to become the first man to make the final of a single  Slam nine times. (Michel Euler/AP) Rafael Nadal is bidding to become the first man to make the final of a single Slam nine times. (Michel Euler/AP)

10:12 a.m. ET | Warm up

So who will face No. 2 Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final? Nadal and Murray take the court on the warmest day of the tournament and it's toasty out there. I just walked around to stretch my legs after live-blogging the first semifinal and you can really feel that sun. It's not the hottest conditions for tennis, but these players have been playing in the cold and it could take some time to get used to. As we saw in the first semifinal, the change in temperature really affected Djokovic, who is one of the fittest players on tour.

http://youtu.be/THWpWCrgK6s

Nadal and his sky blue shirt will serve first. Ready? Play.

Pre-match

No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 7 Andy Murray will meet in the semifinals of the French Open on Friday. The match, televised by NBC, will follow the semifinal between No. 2 Novak Djokovic and No. 18 Ernests Gulbis, which is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET.

Nadal, the eight-time champion, is seeking to become the first man to win five consecutive titles at Roland Garros. The 28-year-old Spaniard is 64-1 at the French Open, with his only loss coming to Robin Söderling in the fourth round in 2009. Nadal opened this year's tournament with four victories over players ranked outside the top 50 before defeating No. 5 David Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 in a rematch of the 2013 final.

Murray has had a more difficult road to his second career French Open semifinal: He beat No. 28 Philipp Kohlschreiber 12-10 in the fifth set in the third round and held off No. 23 Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The 27-year-old from Scotland is seeking to make his first final since having back surgery last September.

Nadal is 14-5 against Murray, including 5-0 on clay. But Murray can take positives from their meeting last month at the Italian Open, where Nadal was nearly bageled in the first set and needed to rally from 2-4 down in the third set to win 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Nadal must win the tournament to avoid relinquishing the No. 1 ranking to Djokovic.

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