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Ferrer Ends Nadal's Grand Dream

Melbourne, Australia

Nadal, Ferrer© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal congratulates David Ferrer after their quarter-final encounter.

Seventh seed David Ferrer advanced to his second Grand Slam championship semi-final at the Australian Open on Wednesday, after he ended World No. 1 Rafael Nadal's quest to capture a fourth straight major title. Ferrer beat his fellow Spaniard, who was hindered by a left hamstring strain, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 during the night session.

The 28-year-old Ferrer, who reached the 2007 US Open semi-finals (l. to Djokovic), will next meet fifth seed and last year's runner-up Andy Murray on Friday (Match Report). Ferrer has a 9-0 record this year, which includes his title success at the Heineken Open in Auckland 11 days ago.

"I played very consistently all the three sets [and] I was focused just in my game," said Ferrer. "I'm very happy with my game. I'm very confident. So I want to enjoy this moment.

"I will try to do my best [against Murray], but I need to play very consistently, [stay] very focused all the match, because Andy's a top player."

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Looking ahead to the semi-final, Nadal admitted, "[David] is playing fantastic. But I think he's not the favourite. But if he keep playing like this, hopefully he can have a good chance to be in the final or win the tournament. [He] is a fantastic person [and] a close friend of mine. So I wish him all the best."

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Ferrer took Nadal to eight deuces in the second game of the first set, before he converted his second break point opportunity with a powerful forehand winner. Nadal immediately broke back, hitting an angled backhand winner with Ferrer at the net. But at 1-2 the 2009 titlist called for the trainer and left the court for five minutes.

On Nadal's return to Rod Laver Arena, Ferrer sealed his second service break with a backhand winner down the line. It then became apparent that Nadal had had strapping applied to his left thigh. The Mallorcan kept battling and broke Ferrer's serve for 4-5, but he was noticeably in pain when shifting his weight to his left leg. Ferrer converted his third set point opportunity when Nadal hit a forehand into the tramlines.

Ferrer slipped to 0/40 in the third game of the second set and paid the price when he fired a backhand beyond the baseline. Any hope of a Nadal comeback ended at 2-1, when he gifted Ferrer three break point opportunities. Nadal saved the first with his first ace of the match, but then he hit a backhand into the net. When Ferrer led 3-2, both players headed to the locker room for 10 minutes due to the Australia Day fireworks in the Melbourne skyline.

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The break in play didn't help Nadal. His left hamstring had tightened up on a cool evening at Melbourne Park and upon their return to the court, Ferrer broke serve for a 4-2 lead when Nadal hit a forehand wide. Two games later, Ferrer clinched the second set with a backhand winner down the line.

It was one-way traffic in the third set with Ferrer completing his third straight hold for love for a 3-0 lead. Ferrer saved two break points at 3-1 with forehand winners and one break point at 4-2, 30/40 with a bullet serve out wide, before he clinched a semi-final berth with a hold to love to complete a two-hour and 33-minute victory.

"For respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match," said Nadal at the start of his press conference. "I think he played at a very high level. I just congratulate him and wish him all the best for the semi-final. I think he's doing a fantastic tournament. If he keep playing like this, he's going to have a good chance.

"It is obvious that I didn't feel at my best. I had a problem during the match, [at] the very beginning. After that, the match was almost over. Today, I really [couldn't] do more than what I did. He played at a very high level, and I wasn't able to compete against him tonight."

Nadal had been bidding to become the first player to win four straight major championships since Rod Laver completed his second Grand Slam in 1969.

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