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Ferrer ends talks of a ‘Rafa Slam'

The seventh seed beats Nadal in straight sets; Paes & Bhupathi in semifinals

— PHOTO: AP

DIGNIFIED IN DEFEAT:The respect David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal have for each other was evident in how the latter refused to discuss his injury and drew attention to how well his compatriot and friend had played to make the semifinals.

MELBOURNE: David Ferrer dumped an injury-hit Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open in straight sets on Wednesday, ending the World No.1's bid for a historic sweep of the Grand Slam titles.

The grimacing Nadal was in trouble right from the 18-minute second game, but despite repeated medical attention and a strapped left thigh he grimly battled to a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal defeat.

Earlier, fifth-seeded Andy Murray made his fifth Grand Slam semifinal with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3 win over unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov, after third-seed Kim Clijsters and second-seeded Vera Zvonareva advanced to the women's semifinals.

Clijsters had some nervous moments in her 6-3, 7-6(4) win over No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska. Zvonareva, however, had an easier match against Petra Kvitova winning 6-2, 6-4.

Zvonareva wore a black ribbon on her cap to support victims of Monday's deadly suicide bombing at Domodedovo airport in Moscow, her home city, which killed 35 and left her frantically calling relatives.

Nadal's shock loss comes on the exact anniversary of last year's injury pull-out in the quarterfinals against Andy Murray, which also came on Australia Day as celebratory fireworks lit up the Melbourne night sky. The defeat halts Nadal's quest for the ‘Rafa Slam.'

“It's not easy because Rafael is a gentleman and he was playing injured, and we are friends,” Ferrer said. “He was injured in the first set but I played my game, I fight a lot and sometimes it's not easy.” (sic)

“This is one big victory for me, but it's not like a victory, really,” Ferrer said. “He was playing with injury...and I had luck. But I played my game.”

Nadal appeared to have tears in his eyes during a changeover while trailing 3-0 in the third set, and was clearly out of sorts during the match, failing to chase down balls that he would ordinarily return easily.

Despite the injury, Nadal dug in and played the match and stayed on court in respect for his friend Ferrer and to give him the satisfaction of beating him on the court and not via an injury retirement.

“This is a difficult day for me,” Nadal said, adding that he preferred to not talk about the nature of the injury.

“Today I can't do more than what I did, he played at a very high level.”

When pressed about the injury, Nadal said: “I don't have to tell you what I felt on the court, but it is obvious I did not feel at my best. I had a problem with the match at the very beginning, and after that, the match was almost over.”

Ferrer meets Murray

Ferrer will face Murray in Friday's semifinal after the British fifth seed outgunned rising star Alexandr Dolgopolov. Ferrer has a 3-2 winning record against Murray but has never beaten him on hard-courts.

A good day for Bhupathi

Mahesh Bhupathi made the semifinals of the men's doubles and the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles event on Wednesday.

He and Leander Paes, the third seeds, advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over eighth seeds Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic to set up a meeting with second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor.

Later, Bhupathi and Anastasia Rodionova beat David Marrero and Sara Errani 6-3, 6-1 in the second round of the mixed doubles.

Cara Black and Leander Paes, the fourth seeds, suffered a tight 7-6(13), 7-6(5) second-round loss to Paul Hanley and Yung-Jan Chan. — Agencies

THE RESULTS

Prefix denotes seeding

Men: Quarterfinals: 5-Andy Murray (GBr) bt Alexandr Dolgopolov (Ukr) 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3; 7-David Ferrer (Esp) bt 1-Rafael Nadal (Esp) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Doubles: Quarterfinals: 3-Mahesh Bhupathi & Leander Paes (Ind) bt 8-Michael Llodra (Fra) & Nenad Zimonjic (Srb) 6-4, 6-4; 2-Max Mirnyi (Blr) & Daniel Nestor (Can) bt 5-Mariusz Fyrstenberg (Pol) & Marcin Matkowski (Pol) 7-6(3), 6-3.

Women: Quarterfinals: 2-Vera Zvonareva (Rus) bt 25-Petra Kvitova (Cze) 6-2, 6-4; 3-Kim Clijsters (Bel) bt 12-Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) 6-3, 7-6(4). Doubles: Semifinals: 1-Gisela Dulko (Arg) & Flavia Pennetta (Ita) bt 3-Liezel Huber (USA) & Nadia Petrova (Rus) 6-4, 7-5; 12-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) & Maria Kirilenko (Rus) bt 2-Kveta Peschke (Cze) & Katarina Srebotnik (Slo) 6-2, 6-4.

Mixed doubles: Quarterfinals: 3-Maria Kirilenko (Rus) & Nenad Zimonjic (Srb) bt Meghann Shaughnessy (USA) & Andy Ram (Isr) 6-1, 7-6(1); Horia Tecau (Rou) & Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) bt Sally Peers & Carsten Ball (Aus) 7-5, 6-4. Second round: Yung-Jan Chan (Tpe) & Paul Hanley (Aus) bt 4-Cara Black (Zim) & Leander (Ind) 7-6(11), 7-6(5); Rodionova (Aus) & Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) bt Sara Errani (Ita) & David Marrero (Esp) 6-3, 6-1 .

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