nadal wins
On the comeback trail, Nadal defeated Murray in straight sets. Getty

Claiming his first and only victory of the year against one of his three closest rivals, No. 5 Rafael Nadal swept No. 2 Andy Murray in straight sets 6-4 6-1 at the ATP World Tour Finals Wednesday at the O2 Arena in London.

Should Stan Wawrinka best David Ferrer later today, Nadal will move on to the year-end tournament’s semifinals, while Murray does risk losing control of his No. 2 ranking but can still advance in the tournament if he beats Wawrinka on Friday in the final group match in the round-robin.

The 29-year-old has struggled through long stretches of the season due to injuries and poor play, but Nadal displayed a strong forehand to force Murray into several early mistakes in the first set and then coasted in the final stanza.

It was Nadal’s third win over Murray in their last four matches, avenging his loss on the Madrid Masters clay earlier this season, and his first on the hard court against the Scotsman since 2011.

“Against a home player the crowd is unbelievable. It’s an important day – one of my best victories of the season in difficult circumstances,” Nadal said after the match. “I played well in general – the tactic against Andy is to play very well. The only way to damage him is to play with high intensity and aggressively. I played well, not many mistakes. I’m very happy and working hard to play these matches.”

The Spaniard has been on a roll. Nadal defeated Wawrinka in a hard-fought, yet convincing, result on Monday, 6-3, 6-2. After mainly winning most of his matches on clay, Nadal has looked strong on hardcourt.

In the Stan Smith group, Roger Federer won both his matches to clinch a spot in the semifinals.