Rafael Nadal will continue preparations to defend his French Open crown from his lowest ranking position in 10 years.
The Spaniard lost in the final of the Madrid Masters to Scotland’s Andy Murray Sunday, falling to No. 7 in the world as a result.
The last time the Mallorcan was that low in the rankings was May 2005.
Victory for Murray, however, saw him claim a second career clay court title after only clinching his first in Munich last week.
The Scot’s feat is all the more impressive given the manner of his triumph.
He fought to a three sets win against Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rain-delayed final in Germany Monday before again beating the same opponent in a late night finish in Madrid two days later.
Though clearly tired, Murray had battled to the final showdown with increasing confidence. Yet in Nadal, he faced an opponent who held a 6-0 lead over him on clay and 15-5 overall.
In the end, the past counted for little as world No. 3 Murray took advantage of 11 unforced errors to take the opening set.
The second followed the same pattern. Murray took a double break advantage early before closing out to win 6-3 6-2.
Murray’s record on clay is now 9-0 this season while Nadal has suffered four defeats on the mud.
The Scot’s undefeated run started after his marriage last month to Kim Sears and he celebrated his win by writing “marriage works” on the court side camera.
“To play Rafa in Spain is extremely tough, but this is the reason why we play tennis for these matches,” Murray said after the match. “It is one of the toughest things in tennis to try and win against Rafa on clay.
“I will keep trying to play well in the next few weeks with Roland Garros just round the corner.”
The odds of Murray winning the French Open for the first time have shortened while Nadal said he was not disheartened as he bids for a 10th victory at the clay court grand slam.
“Evidently today wasn’t the game I wanted or hoped to play. I tried until the end but it is not a day I am going to remember,” said Nadal.
“Even so, this week has been a very important week for me in which I have recovered sensations which I haven’t felt on a tennis court for some time.”
Murray is just the fourth player to beat Nadal in a clay court final. That the Spaniard had coasted through all his previous rounds in straight sets only makes the final win more impressive.
Both will now head to Rome for the Masters 1000 tournament in the Italian capital.