Murray, Raonic set up battle, Nadal starts title defence


Andy Murray crushed Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo in a powerful 6-1, 6-2 display on Thursday to set up a quarter-final showdown with Milos Raonic at the Barcelona Open. Second seed Murray, a quarter-finalist a week ago in Monte Carlo, reached the last eight again as he builds for the French Open next month. Murray and number 25 Raonic, who put out two-time semi-finalist Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-3, will finally clash in a match which should have been played in March at Miami had the Canadian not suffered an injury and been forced to withdraw to give Murray the walkover third-round win.
The Scot has come alive this week as he produced his best career showing in Barcelona after previously winning only one match here at the Real Club de Tenis. Murray’s win was his 25th of the season against five defeats; Giraldo lost his 15th match without a win against top 10 players. Second seed Murray won the opening set in 33 minutes and broke to start the second as he wasted no time in advancing on the clay.
He overcame a second-set niggle, losing serve in the fourth game but answering with a break-back and following with a love game for 4-2. The Scot advanced on his second match point from his opponent’s backhand error after 74 minutes and nine aces.
Raonic, the 11th seed who has played less than 20 career ATP clay matches, produced an equally one-way third-round win against Spanish sixth seed Nicolas Almagro as he beat the two-time semi-finalist 6-3, 6-3 in just 67 minutes. The winner fired seven aces while breaking three times. “This was probably my best win on clay,” said Raonic. “There’s been a big change for me this week. I’m very proud of my play today, and I’m progressing well.” Spanish seventh seed Feliciano Lopez beat Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-1 while Japan’s Kei Nishikori continued his own progress, with the eighth seed defeating Spaniard Albert Ramos 7-6 (7/2), 6-3. Spanish powerhouse players Rafael Nadal, who has won six of the last seven editions, and third seed David Ferrer, a three-time losing finalist to Nadal, were bidding to advance later. Nadal was facing Colombian Robert Farah while Ferrer was taking on compatriot Albert Montanes. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal began his title defence at the Barcelona Open on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who had defeated the king of clay two years ago in Thailand. Top seed Nadal, champion at the Real Club de Tenis in six of the last seven editions – he missed 2010 with knee trouble – claimed his 30th match victory in a row at his home event.
Nadal didn’t have it all his own way, with his 78th-ranked opponent winning only his second game of the match as he managed a break with Nadal leading a set and 4-0. The top seed eventually finished the job with some slight difficulty after Garcia-Lopez saved a match point with a forehand in the final game before the end came after 81 minutes. Garcia-Lopez beat Nadal in Bangkok two years ago indoors and also put out tournament second seed Andy Murray in Indian Wells in March. Nadal admitted his dodgy left knee was not perfect but insisted it wont be a problem for him,
Top seed Nadal, whose victory was his 30th in a row at the clay event in the Catalan capital, told reporters he had felt a slight twinge of pain in his left knee, but remains unconcerned: “It’s normal.” “I had a few errors, but my backhand felt good the entire match. I was solid. “Things went better than I would have thought, it was a good win.”
Nadal, the world number two, picked up where he had left off on his favourite surface last weekend when he won an historic eighth consecutive trophy in Monte Carlo, ending a seven-match loss streak to world number one Novak Djokovic.