Nadal takes one step closer to an ATP World Tour Finals title with a thrilling three-hour victory over Murray[AFP]

World number one Rafael Nadal edged his way into the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday, overcoming a battling Andy Murray 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 after more than three hours.

Nadal, who won this year's US Open to complete a career Grand Slam, has never won the season-ending event for the top eight players in the world. The Spaniard will face Roger Federer in Sunday's final. Federer overpowered Novak Djokovic 6-1, 6-4 in the later game.

"Today I played one of the best matches of my career,'' Nadal said.

Enthralling

Nadal has been in terrific form this week, a complete contrast to the forlorn figure who lost three successive matches here last year.

Murray knew he had to improve his serving to compete with Nadal and the early signs were good there, too, as he fired down seven aces in his opening four games, losing only four points in the process.

There was nothing to separate the players in the enthralling first set in which both were rock solid on serve but Nadal edged the tiebreak to move ahead.

From 2-3 down in the second set Murray found another gear and reeled off five consecutive games and appeared to be heading for a stunning victory before Nadal roared back.

Nadal seized on a Murray lapse in the decider to break in the third game and had a match point when Murray served at 3-5, only to be stretched into another nerve-wracking tiebreak.

Murray made the better start and forged into a 4-1 lead but his relentless opponent recovered and stormed into a 6-5 lead.

Murray again saved a match point but when a third opportunity arrived, Nadal sealed victory with an inside out forehand.

Murray finished the match with 22 aces, but he also had 47 unforced errors to go along with his 53 winners. Overall, the Briton won 114 points in the match, five more than Nadal.

Source: Agencies