Lawn Tennis: MURRAY'S CLAY FEAT; HAMBURG MASTERS Birthday boy to face Nadal after classy win.
ANDY MURRAY produced another strong performance at the Hamburg Masters to dump Gilles Simon 6-3 6-3 and earn a 21st birthday clash with world No.2 Rafael Nadal.
Victory was sweet revenge for Murray who crashed to the Frenchman in Rome a fortnight ago.
The Dunblane ace said: "That was a very good win. Simon has beaten a lot of top players on clay, guys like Tommy Robredo and Gaston Gaudio, and last year he lost 7-5 in the third set to Nikolay Davydenko.
"So he's a tough guy on clay and to beat him three and three is a great result for me."
The British No.1 was in control from the start and it took him just five minutes to grab the lead, breaking serve in the opening game with a beautifully executed lob.
Playing steadily against a hard-hitting but erratic opponent, Murray forced an error with a fine return to break again and lead 4-1.
Simon threatened to haul himself into the match when he broke serve then fought off a break point in the next game to reduce the deficit to 4-3.
But Murray held to lead 5-3 and a strong return forced Simon to hit wide in the next game, clinching the set.
There were several good lengthy rallies as both players traded backhands but Murray showed the greater consistency while Simon often went for too big a shot.
Still, the Scots ace had to show patience in the second set as he waited for a breakthrough.
He earned a break point to lead 3-1 but was caught off balance when he was slow reacting to a backhand.
His next chance came at 4-3 when Simon self-destructed with three careless errors before Murray broke to love with a drop shot.
However, it was difficult for the Scot to close out the match after he broke a string on the first point as he served for victory.
He fell 0-40 behind but showed great composure to recover and claim the game and match.
Murray said: "It's not the nicest thing when you break a string as you're serving for the match.
"But to come back from 0-40 was good because it was one of those matches where I was on top the whole way.
"It's really tough if you let the guy back in when it's someone as tricky as him. You can get into a dogfight."
Murray is determined to give himself the best possible birthday present when he faces Nadal in their third career meeting.
He said: "I'm not expected to beat the best guy in the world on clay but if I perform like I did today I can push the match close.
"Usually you have to be aggressive to win against him but on clay you must be a bit more patient.
"You can't just make rash decisions and go for winners when you're a long way behind the baseline or when he's getting balls high up above your shoulder. Don't make any silly mistakes and come forward when you get the chance."
REVENGE IS SWEET: Murray atones for Rome defeat by Gilles Simon as he romps to victory yesterday