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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 11:36 GMT
Gonzalez destroys Nadal challenge
By Caroline Cheese

Fernando Gonzalez
Gonzalez has reached the last eight at all four Grand Slams
Fernando Gonzalez blew away second seed Rafael Nadal to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.

The powerful Chilean dominated from the outset, winning 6-2 6-4 6-3 to set up a clash with Germany's Tommy Haas, who earlier beat Nikolay Davydenko.

Nadal was below par, and later blamed a leg injury, but he was ultimately undone by the awesome shotmaking of an inspired opponent.

Gonzalez needed just over two hours to complete the best win of his career.

The 26-year-old later said he was reaping the benefits of linking up with Larry Stefanki, former coach to Marcelo Rios, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Tim Henman.

"I've been trying to go to the net, slice more, run more," said Gonzalez.

"Before I used to hit, hit... I would win a point and lose a point and now I have other strategies to play.

I have problems in my leg, so I cannot run

Rafael Nadal

"I lost three times before in the quarters, but today I'm playing the best tennis of my career."

Gonzalez will meet Haas in the second semi-final in Melbourne, on Friday from 0830 GMT.

If he carries his current form into that match, Gonzalez is a good bet to reach his maiden Grand Slam final.

The Chilean blasted fifth seed James Blake off the court in his previous match but the more defensive Nadal presented an altogether different challenge.

After a cagey opening in which Gonzalez had to save a break point, the 10th seed came to life in the fifth game, finding the range on his forehand to draw first blood.

Nadal was broken again as Gonzalez took the first set in 33 minutes but there was no let-up at the start of the second as the Chilean broke immediately.

The world number two was understandably rattled, regularly looking to his coach Toni for inspiration which never came.

At 3-4, Nadal had a glimmer of hope when he took Gonzalez to deuce but the Chilean quickly shut the door with yet another audacious forehand winner.

606: DEBATE
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Nadal, a genial character off the court, was so frustrated that the umpire had to warn the 20-year-old about his language.

And at 2-1 in the third set, the Spaniard left the court for treatment to an apparent groin injury but Gonzalez was unmoved.

A dazzling forehand return earned him the crucial break and there was no going back for Nadal, who is still without a title since the French Open in June last year.

The Spaniard later blamed his defeat on an injury he picked up in his five-set win over Andy Murray in the previous round.

"I have problems in my leg, so I cannot run," said the 20-year-old.

"It was difficult playing a match like this, quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, not being in the best condition.

"When I am on court, I am trying to run. Well, I can't. It was difficult and disappointing for me."



SEE ALSO
Gonzalez v Nadal gamewatch
24 Jan 07 |  Tennis
Men's Australian Open draw
13 Jan 07 |  Tennis
Women's Australian Open draw
13 Jan 07 |  Tennis


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