Murray tipped for French Open glory as Nadal is dethroned
'Marriage works' announces Murray as he beats King of Clay and maintains 100 per cent record since wedding
Having never won a clay-court tournament until this month, newly-married Andy Murray has suddenly developed a taste for the surface, and pulled off the ultimate achievement of beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Masters on Sunday.
Nadal, a nine-times winner of the French Open is the "best clay-court player in history", says Leo Roopanarine in The Guardian. But he was swatted away 6-3, 6-2 by the Scot who played with an "authority and conviction... which few players other than Novak Djokovic have been able to summon against the great Spaniard on clay".
"Nadal simply had no answer to Murray's variety and consistency, cutting an increasingly forlorn figure as he was repeatedly subjected to the rare indignity of being outrallied and out-thought from the back of the court," Roopanarine writes.
Such was his quality of his play that Murray could even become the first Briton to win the French Open for 80 years, says Barry Flatman of The Times.
"Murray didn't just go into the lair of the King of Clay and steal the prey, he tucked his napkin into the collar of his shirt before sitting down and devouring it with an appetite of self-assurance that suggests it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to speculate about a first British winner... since Fred Perry in 1935."
Murray's sudden transformation into a clay-court specialist comes after his wedding to long-term girlfriend Kim Sears last month. He remains unbeaten since returning to the court for the start of the clay season, notes Sky Sports, and was moved to scribble "marriage works" on the lens of the camera after his latest triumph.
Although he cannot wear his wedding ring during matches, he has an unusual way of bringing it on court - he ties it through the laces of his left shoe. "A strap around the neck would be more conventional but considerably less Murray-ish," says Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph.
It would appear to have made a difference he adds. "There has been a newfound sense of assurance about Murray in this tournament. Even though he and Sears have been an item for a decade, he has clearly drawn deep satisfaction from formalising the arrangement.
"He is not alone in finding inspiration in events off the court," adds Briggs. "Novak Djokovic has barely lost a match since the birth of his son Stefan in October, while the arrival of Roger Federer's second set of twins last May triggered his best results in years. For these great players, tennis might be their life. But they also perform better when there is more to life than tennis."