Posted by Sabrina B. @gametimegirl
Rafael Nadal’s bid to win four straight Grand Slam tournaments is over.
The injured Nadal lost his quarterfinal 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 Wednesday to fellow SpaniardÂ David Ferrer at the Australian Open.
Nadal, who appeared to have tears in his eyes during a changeover while trailing 3-0 in the third set, took a medical timeout for an apparent leg injury after three games and was clearly out of sorts, failing to chase down balls that he would ordinarily return easily.
It was the second year in a row he lost in the quarterfinals here due to injury — in 2010 he retired againstÂ Andy Murray due to a right knee ailment that kept him off the tour for two months, again on the Australia Day national holiday.
“This is one big victory for me, but it’s not like a victory really,” seventh-seeded Ferrer said on court after the match.
“He was playing with injury … and I had luck. But I played my game.”
Nadal, who didn’t bother chasing the winner on match point, won last year’s French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open and was trying to add the Australian title so he could hold all four major trophies at once. That hasn’t been achieved since Rod Laver won four in a row in 1969.
The only fireworks came Wednesday night during the match — Australia Day celebrations forced a 10-minute interruption while the sky outside Rod Laver was lit up by a pyrotechnics show.
As the fireworks exploded, Nadal changed his shirt and briefly left the stadium. He came back a couple of minutes later and took off his right shoe and fidgeted with his toes and sock.
After losing the second set, the usually fidgety Nadal slumped in his chair at the changeover, completely still with his head bent.
The crowd cheered almost exclusively for Nadal — “Come on, Rafa,” — they roared, while often applauding Ferrer’s errors.
All, eventually, for nothing.
Nadal came to Australia with a virus he picked up in Doha, Qatar two weeks ago. He sweated profusely in several of his matches, but appeared to be over his problems, saying after his fourth-round win overÂ Marin Cilic that he thought he had recovered.
Murray won’t have to get past Nadal this year, but he will have to beat Ferrer and either defending championÂ Roger Federer or 2008 championÂ Novak Djokovic to claim his first major title.
Murray had a struggle on his hands Wednesday, constantly trying to find his rhythm againstAlexandr Dolgopolov before advancing 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3. Dolgopolov had already beaten 2008 runner-upÂ Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and French Open finalistÂ Robin Soderling and has the kind of unorthodox game that can unsettle higher-ranked players.
Apart from the second set, when 2010 finalist Murray didn’t lose a point on serve until he had triple set point, momentum swung frequently.
“It was very tough,” Murray said. “He hits the ball different from everyone else.”
Dolgopolov was able to mix up his slice and spin with deep flat shots, sometimes at the net, sometimes at the baseline, and rarely giving Murray a look at the same ball twice in a row.
Dolgopolov had 77 unforced errors, mainly because he was trying to push Murray to the extremes. In the first set, it took Murray more than 10 minutes and four set points to finally win the 12th game.
Murray spent a lot of time talking — maybe swearing — to himself.
“I was trying to get myself pumped up,” Murray said. “It was very slow, cool conditions out on the court. You need to make sure you’re moving your feet a lot when you’re out there. You need to urge yourself to play a solid, stable match, not make too many mistakes.”
He got the better of Murray in a 36-ball rally in the third set, saving three break points and then going on to force a tiebreaker.
Dolgopolov’s coach, Australian Jack Reader, left the court after the third set and returned asking “What’s going on?” when Murray had opened up a 3-0 lead in the fourth. From then, although he dropped a serve, Murray was able to remain consistent enough to win it.