26
Jan
11

Ferrer kicks Rafa out of the Aussie Open.

David Ferrer defeated an injury-stricken Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-2 6-3 to set up a semi-final against Andy Murray at the Australian Open. Top seed Nadal had his left thigh strapped early in the first set and the heavy-hitting Ferrer showed his friend and fellow Spaniard little mercy. Ferrer feasted on Nadal’s weakened serve as he moved into a two-set lead. And while Nadal hung in gamely, seventh seed Ferrer held his nerve to secure a semi-final debut in Melbourne. It was the first time the 24-year-old Nadal had lost in a major since retiring hurt against Murray in last year’s Australian Open quarter-finals. And injury destroyed the world number one’s dream of holding all four majors simultaneously – the so-called ‘Rafa Slam’ – on Rod Laver Arena.

Ferrer, 28, had the nine-time major winner on the back foot from the outset, going blow for blow from the back of the court and hitting winners at will from both flanks. Nadal, who had won 12 of the previous 15 meetings between the two and all of the last eight, was taken to eight deuces in his first service game before being broken when he plonked a tame backhand into the net. Nadal broke back straightaway, sealing the game with a cute angled backhand, before immediately calling for a medical time-out and trudging disconsolately from the court. The 2009 champion returned with his left thigh heavily strapped – he appeared to tweak something in his fourth-round victory over Marin Cilic – and his body language suggested he was far from comfortable. Ferrer sealed another break courtesy of a threaded backhand down the line but there were signs Nadal’s treatment was starting to have an effect in the next game, with one whipped forehand winner closely followed by a trademark fist-pump. Indeed, Nadal broke back in the next game to make it 5-4, Ferrer suddenly tightening with his opponent at his mercy, only for Nadal to drop serve again, as well as his first set of the championship. Typically, Nadal came out swinging at the start of the second set, breaking Ferrer to love. But Ferrer responded in kind, producing one of the shots of the fortnight, a forehand winner down the line, to make the score 2-2. There followed a 10-minute break for fireworks, it being Australia Day, about which Nadal did not look particularly happy. And when play resumed Ferrer stepped up a gear, hammering away at the brittle Nadal serve and firing winners from both sides as he reeled off the next four games. With Nadal little more than a husk, Ferrer began to bully proceedings in the third set, racing into a 3-0 lead. And while Nadal demonstrated his survival instincts in creating two break points at 1-3 down, Ferrer was ruthless in snuffing out any signs of revival, unfurling a wicked forehand down the line before holding with a wrong-footing backhand.

Nadal showed tantalising glimpses of his normal self in holding his next two service games – his serve was broken seven times in total – but he had no answer to his opponent’s serve and Ferrer stayed focused to close out the match.

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