Andy Murray will face his sternest test of the clay court season so far, when he faces the indomitable force of nature that is Rafael Nadal later today in the final of the Madrid Open. Both men were convincing winners of their semi-final matches in the Spanish capital yesterday, eliminating both Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych from the tournament. The women's final was convincingly won by the reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, building on her semi-final triumph over Serena Williams.

Comfortable victory over Asian star

Britain's shining light had lost to Nishikori the last time they played each other.

That 'home' defeat at the end of season World Tour Finals was a particularly chastening experience for him. He seems to be in far better shape at present though and returned to his more familiar form against the Japanese player in their semi-final meeting. A straight sets 6-3 6-4 victory sealed his final place.

The match was close in the early stages as the games went with serve. Murray stepped up a gear from 2-3 down to break Nishikori's serve twice and claim the first set. Set two had seemed to be going the way of the Japanese player early on as he broke Murray. But the Scot roared back to cancel out his rival's advantage and a further break of serve allowed him to clinch the match.

Nadal beginning to find form

Despite Murray's improved form on clay, with last week's Munich Open title already safely in the bag, Nadal will start the final as favourite.

His early season problems seem to be behind him. The manner in which he overwhelmed Berdych in the second set in his 7-6 6-1 success was reminiscent of the Nadal of old. He has after all won the French Open on a staggering 9 occasions.

Worrying head to head statistics

Neither does their 'head to head' offer any reason for greater optimism come the final.

Nadal leads 15-5, but perhaps more pertinent is the relative position in their clay court tussles. The Spaniard leads on that front 6-0 and will recollect fondly on their last match. That was an one-sided semi-final encounter at last year's French Open, the Britain winning just six games in a straight-sets defeat.

If Murray can put those worrying statistics out of his mind then he may well have a chance.

He did provide better opposition for the Spaniard when they met in Rome last year. After taking the first set, Murray did ultimately lose the match, but only by a narrow margin in the final set. Nadal does not look quite the force of old just yet, but many believe that is only a matter of time. Murray will hope that time does not come until after Madrid.

Kvitova had too much power in women's final

After the surprise defeats of both Ms Williams and Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, the women's final featured Kvitova against the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sadly for Spanish Tennis fans, the finale to the tournament proved to be something of an anti-climax. The Czech player was dominant from the start and brushed her opponent aside with a powerful 6-1 6-2 display.

Kuznetsova seemed to struggle with a thigh injury during the match, although that should not diminish the standard of play from her rival on the day.

Kvitova's confidence was no doubt heightened by the manner in which she had ended Serena's winning streak in the semis. No one else had managed such a feat in 27 previous matches on the tour. Her game looks to be clicking nicely into gear not only for the upcoming French Open, but also for the defence of her Wimbledon crown.