London, Jul 2: Rafael Nadal ensured Britain's longest running sporting nightmare will continue as he ended Andy Murray's Wimbledon hopes.
Nadal set up a final date with Tomas Berdych with 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 victory that silenced a fervent and expectant Centre Court crowd, which included David Beckham.
Nadal, who missed last year's title defence through injury, becomes only the sixth player in Wimbledon history to reach four consecutive finals - joining an exclusive club that includes Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.
It will be scant consolation to Murray - seeking to end a 74-year wait for a home winner - that he played so well, only to run into a player who was just playing even better.
It was a similar story to last year's semi-final against Andy Roddick - and while this match didn't go the distance, the straight sets scoreline does not mean this was a straightforward victory.
"It was a very good match for me and you have to play your best tennis against Andy - he's one of the toughest opponents in the world," said Nadal, who lost to the British number one at the Australian Open earlier this year but now leads their Grand Slam head s-to-heads 3-2.
"I told Andy I was sorry and I wished him the best of luck for the rest of the season. He deserves to win a Grand Slam and it will happen very soon for him, I'm sure.
"However, I've got a tough opponent now because Tomas is having an amazing tournament."
Nadal seized the early lead when he broke Murray in the ninth game of the opening set and then served out his advantage at the first opportunity.
The second set stayed with serve and even early on appeared to be heading to an inevitable and critical tie break.
Murray lost the first set in his quarter-final with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and then turned the tide in a tense second set tie-break but Nadal was laying down his marker, holding his two service games before to love.
Murray though was also hitting his top level, grinding it out with the world number one in a series of punishing baseline exchanges and firing down a succession of aces.
However, he will long regret failing to seize a set point chance on his own serve as Nadal doubled his advantage - thanks, in part, to a net cord.
But this was not the Murray who folded in straight sets against Nadal in the quarter-finals two years ago.
Despite the scoreline, this match was close, with only a few points separating two players. Indeed midway through the third set Murray had won more points than his Spanish rival.
The British number one finally recorded his first break early in the third and a sense of self-belief finally starting to take hold among an expectant crowd, some of whom had clearly started to fear the worst.
But Nadal hit back and then claimed three straight games in a row to seal his impressive victory in two hours and 22 minutes.
‘I’m disappointed but I don’t think I played a bad match - he just played great and that was the difference,” said Murray.
“The match turned on a few points but he’s obviously playing with a lot of confidence at the moment.
“He’s one of the greatest players ever and he’s going to be the favourite for the final.”
World number four Murray, who arrived at Wimbledon with confidence at a low ebb, insists he will turn the negative of this defeat into a positive ahead of the US Open.
“A few weeks ago no-one would have given me a hope of reaching the semis but I played a good tournament,” he added.
“I think I’ll back on the tournament as a whole as a good one. In the past this sort of thing has made me work harder.
“I’m going to have a holiday now but I normally play well in the American hard court part of the season so I will look forward to that.”