Rafael Nadal’s quest for his fourth straight Grand Slam tennis title came to a tearful end in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
The top-seeded Spaniard struggled with a hamstring-related injury throughout yesterday’s match, losing 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to seventh-seeded David Ferrer at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne and snapping his 25-match Grand Slam winning streak.
The 24-year-old Nadal was seeking to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam championships at the same time. The left-hander won the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open last season, and has nine major championships in his career.
“This is one of the bad ones, one of the negative moments,” Nadal told a news conference.
He said he didn’t want to give details of his injury, partly out of respect for Ferrer, his friend and fellow Spaniard.
“I think I am very, very lucky sportsman about what happened in my career,” Nadal said. “And I have to accept the fantastic moments that I had during a lot of years with the same calm that when I have problems.”
Nadal hadn’t lost a set before yesterday, and had reached the semifinals in nine of the previous 11 majors he’d played. He withdrew from the Australian Open at the same stage last year because of a knee injury.
It “was a victory for me but not like victory really,” Ferrer, 28, said in a courtside interview. “I saw Rafael could not run, and it is not easy, but I was focusing on my game and didn’t want to think of Rafael.”
Nadal took a medical timeout after the third game. He returned with taping on his left hamstring and frequently looked over to his uncle and long-time coach, Toni Nadal.
“Rafa told me on the court that he couldn’t run and had torn” thigh muscles, Toni Nadal told Spain’s EFE newswire. The injury happened in the second game when his nephew tried to reach a crosscourt backhand, the uncle said.
The No. 1-ranked player on the ATP World Tour also received treatment after the fifth game, and then at 3-2 in the second set when play was halted for a fireworks display to celebrate Australia Day. Ferrer continued to put Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open winner, under pressure from the back of the court as he took the second set.
With Nadal still struggling to run down balls, Ferrer broke for a 2-0 lead in the third set when a backhand went wide. Sitting during the changeover at 3-0 down, Nadal had tears in his eyes. Serving for a place in his first Australian Open semifinal, Ferrer won on his first match point with a forehand winner.
Grand Slam Meetings
Nadal holds an 11-4 lead in career meetings with Ferrer, who also won the last time the two met in a major, at the 2007 U.S. Open.
Nadal had struggled with illness throughout the tournament. He said he lost 2 1/2 kilograms (5 1/2 pounds) during his third-round match against Australia’s Bernard Tomic because of a virus he caught during a tournament in Qatar at the start of the month. After his fourth-round win over Marin Cilic, Nadal said that he was starting to feel better and was sweating less during matches and practice.
Ferrer will now play Andy Murray, the fifth seed from Britain who lost in the final last year to Roger Federer.
Murray dropped his first set of the tournament before beating unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3.
“It was very tough,” Murray said in a televised courtside interview. “Every point is different against him. He hits the ball different to everyone else. I struggled a bit with my rhythm early on.”
The other men’s semifinal is today between Federer, the No. 2 seed from Switzerland, and Novak Djokovic, the No. 3 seed from Serbia.
Women’s title favorite Kim Clijsters and No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva overcame Australia Day distractions to set up a final four matchup.
Clijsters, the U.S. Open champion and No. 3 seed from Belgium, beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in a match that was interrupted by a formation of jets that flew low over Melbourne Park as part of the holiday celebrations.
Clijsters beat Zvonareva for last year’s U.S. Open title, her third Grand Slam singles championship. She now has reached the semifinals of a major 15 times in 31 tournaments.
Not Best Tennis
“I’m in the semifinals and I don’t feel like I’ve played my best tennis,” Clijsters, who made 37 unforced errors in the match, said in a news conference. “I feel that I’m hanging in there, working hard to win my points.”
Zvonareva defeated 25th-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in straight sets to advance to the semifinals for the second time in three years.
Zvonareva, a Russian bidding to reach her third straight Grand Slam final, ended Kvitova’s nine-match winning streak this season 6-2, 6-4.
“I had to stay aggressive,” Zvonareva told reporters. “She’s such an aggressive player herself. You don’t want her to just keep going for her shots. I was trying to hang in there and fight for every point.”