In a match of myriad break points, Rafael Nadal all but broke Andy Murray's spirit as he bullied his way into the 2011 French Open final in a 6-4 7-5 6-4 display of physical dominance and mental solidity.
If ever a match illustrated the gap between the great and the merely very good, this was it. It was there in the 15 break points that slid through the Scot's fingers. It was there in the ripe Anglo Saxon that drifted on the Philippe Chatrier winds. And it was all too apparent in Murray's shot selection at key moments.
In an earlier practice, John McEnroe had been unable to hit a serve above 70mph in the swirling conditions, and Nadal adapted the better, drawing first blood at 2-1 by taking the net away from Murray and benefiting from the Scot's curious desire to pepper the lines in the wind.
The Spaniard powered onwards to 5-1, but a shaky service game allowed Murray to reclaim a break and, when the players switched ends at 5-4, it was very much game on.
Although Nadal cruised to 40-15, the world number four struck back, with some angry groundshots blowing cannonball holes in the Spanish Armada. With momentum shifting like the swirling brick dust, the pair swapped advantages until Murray planted a relatively tame forehand into the net.Read more (345 words)
At the start of set two, Murray upped the ante and began to go after the points, seeking an alternative to the floated returns that had held up in the wind and been crushed by the world number one, who was all too keen to run around his backhand and withdraw his forehand from its holster.
In a set of five service breaks, the worst was Murray's at 2-2. But any thoughts about inevitable outcomes were erased when the Scot struck back, assisted by a rare Spanish double fault.
Back came the Spaniard with a series of stunning forehands to make it three breaks in a row but, when Murray scorched a backhand cross-court, three became four.
Murray stemmed the flow of breaks briefly, but the barrage of mountainous forehands mixed with intelligent excursions to the net led to three more break points at 5-5. Although Murray saved the first with a colossal ace and the second with a spectacular lunging stop volley, Nadal crashed a forehand past the Scot before serving out to love.
The third set began with an air of sad inevitability hanging over it. With spectators on Chatrier restlessly mugging up on the Djokovic-Federer back story in their programmes, Murray battled gamely to recover from an early break.
While he had chances at 2-3, the British number one went down under a welter of steaming forehands and clutch play from Nadal at key moments. At 5-4, the Spaniard battered his way over the finish line care of a giant smash, a smooth backhand pass and another birthday-present netted forehand from Murray.
As Nadal dropped to his knees as if he'd already bagged his sixth title, the result seemed like just reward for a player who'd responded to his relatively indifferent form by gutsing it out on the practice courts and taking his matches one point at a time.
For his part, Murray can at least reflect on the best clay-court campaign of his career as he knocks the red Roland Garros dust from his shoes and heads for the green, green grass of home.