Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal contested the 2011 Japan Open final. (Getty Images)

Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal met in the final of the ATP 500-level tournament.


The Setting
 

In 2011, Novak Djokovic separated himself from his peers in the ATP’s “Big 4” by posting one of the best nine-month stretches in the history of the game. Through the US Open, the Serb had won three of the four Grand Slams and five of the seven Masters titles played at that point.

After the Open and a week of Davis Cup, the “Asian Swing” of the ATP calendar got in full swing. World No. 4 Andy Murray, who’d lost to Djokovic at the Australian Open final to kick off the year, started this portion of the season with a title in Thailand. In his next event, the Japan Open, his run of good form took him to a second consecutive final.

His opponent in the championship match would be world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who spent the bulk of the season chasing Djokovic, finishing runner-up to him at Wimbledon and the US Open. The Spaniard advanced to the final, his 10th of the year, in Tokyo without losing a set.

The Final
 

After Murray’s run to the championship match in Melbourne, the Scot would go on to reach the semifinals at the other three majors. However, each time he was stopped by a significant roadblock in the form of Nadal. Having just played each other a few weeks earlier in New York, the French Open champion got off to a strong start as he won the opener against Murray 6-3.

In the second set, Murray found the range on his groundstrokes and went up an early break. Holding his serve with relative ease, the world No. 4 was able to turn up the pressure on his return game, and as Nadal served down 2-5, 30-40, a backhand into the net gave Murray the second set to level the match.

Early on in the decider, Murray broke again to go up 2-0—and he didn’t stop there. Raining winners from the back of the court, Murray went up 5-0 with Nadal, the defending champion, serving to stay in the match. Going up 0-40 on the Spaniard’s serve, the Scot clinched the 2oth title of his career on a missed backhand by Nadal as he ran his winning streak to nine straight matches.

Notable Numbers
 

1

For the first time in his career, Murray won the singles and doubles events at the same tournament as he and his brother Jamie defeated Frantisek Cermak and Filip Polasek in the final.

2

This was the second time in a final that Murray posted a 6-0 set over Nadal, the first coming in Rotterdam in 2009 when Murray won 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

7

Nadal dropped his seventh championship match of the year, and the first to someone other than Djokovic. Prior to this year, he’d never lost more than three finals in a season.

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