Updated: Saturday, 17 May 2014 20:06 | By Agence France-Presse

Murray confident ahead of French Open assault

Britain's Andy Murray will head to the French Open with renewed confidence after coming close to ousting defending Rome Masters champion Rafael Nadal in a thrilling 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 quarter-final defeat.


Murray confident ahead of French Open assault

Andy Murray returns the ball to Rafael Nadal during their Rome Masters match on May 16, 2014 at the Foro Italico in Rome - by Tiziana Fabi

Murray, who has only recently returned to form following several months out due to back surgery at the end of last year, stunned the Spanish world number one 6-1 in the opening set at the Foro Italico late on Friday.

World number one Nadal fought back to level the match 1-1 but had to dig deep in a pulsating third set in which he broke the Scot three times before serving out for a 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.

Murray admitted his disappointment with failing to win a match that seemed within his grasp, lamenting a "poor" seventh game in the final set which allowed Nadal to break back into contention.

But amid what has been a particular season for Murray, who is still without a coach after sacking Ivan Lendl, he said he would take encouragement from his performance going into Roland Garros in two weeks time.

Although claiming a win on Friday would not "change my confidence that much", Murray admitted: "Winning a match like that would probably be a big boost to confidence, but I feel that my game is getting there.

"I don't think people respect the severity of what it's like to come back from back surgery... it's a hard thing to come back from, it takes time.

"Now I'm getting back to where I want to be and that's pleasing, with a couple of big months ahead."

Whether Murray can maintain the intensity and power over the longer, five-set games at Roland Garros remains to be seen.

- Change of tactics -

But for most of a hard-hitting clash with Nadal, he was in blistering form and more than once turned a crowd supporting the Spanish ace on his side.

Nadal said he "didnt feel like I was playing bad in the first set", but admitted a change of tactics was required.

"I went more to the net more in the second set. I was confident that if I was able to change something I could fight my way back into the match," said the Spaniard.

"I played a little more against his forehand... and when I went to the net, I gave him some doubts."

Nadal prevailed 6-3 to set up an enticing third set, in which neither player gave way until the seventh game while Murray was leading 4-2.

"I played a poor game at 4-2, I rushed a little bit," said Murray.

"You don't get loads of chances, and that was my chance there, so I'm disappointed at that." 

Although Murray pulled a game back, Nadal broke the Scot at 5-5 and then won his final game on serve to claim a win which keeps him in contention for an eighth title in the Italian capital.

While Nadal heads to Paris looking for a ninth title, Murray's best result at the French Open is a semi-final appearance in 2011.

But going on Friday's performance, the signs look good for the 27-year-old.

"I feel like now I am hitting the ball cleanly, there are a few things that I can do better and I am going to work on it for the next 10 days," he added.

"To be honest, playing Rafa is quite a big challenge but I want to play those matches, want to be very competitive in those matches.

"I expect to feel better in 10 days. I trained hard for the last couple of weeks before Madrid and here.

"Now I'll take few days rest and be ready for the French Open."

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