Andy Murray into Australian Open semis as Nadal retires
AUSTRALIAN OPEN Venue: Melbourne Park Date: 18-31 January BBC coverage:
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Murray appeared to be on his way to victory when Nadal was forced to pull out
By Chris Bevan
Andy Murray is into the Australian Open semi-finals after defending champion Rafael Nadal was forced to retire hurt, ending a pulsating last-eight clash.
Murray was 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 3-0 up when a right-knee injury forced Nadal to quit.
The British number one took a tense first set in 53 minutes and fought back from 4-2 down in the second, eventually running away with the tie-break.
Nadal battled on after having treatment on his knee at the start of the third set, but could not continue for long.
It was a sad end to an absorbing encounter but the end result is that Murray is through to the last four for the first time in Melbourne, where he will meet 14th seed Marin Cilic.
The 22-year-old Scot, who is attempting to become Britain's first men's Grand Slam winner since Fred Perry in 1936, becomes the first Briton to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open since John Lloyd in 1977.
He arrives there in good shape, again showing the impressive form that has now seen him come through five matches without dropping a set.
Murray, seeded fifth, served solidly throughout and showed he has added an aggressive edge to his renowned counter-attacking tactics by frequently taking the game to the Spaniard with some powerful ground-strokes from either flank as well as some unexpected serve-volleying.
Murray deserves to win Aussie Open - Nadal
He needed two breaks to take a first set that was full of lengthy and often ferocious rallies and the second set was an even more tempestuous affair.
It appeared Nadal had grabbed the initiative when, following a 10-minute break while fireworks went off around Melbourne to celebrate Australia Day, the second seed broke to lead 4-2.
But Murray demonstrated his strength of character by immediately breaking back and eventually taking the set in a one-sided tie-break.
It is unclear whether or not Nadal was already feeling the effects of his knee injury at that point but his problem quickly became apparent to everybody on Rod Laver Arena when he required treatment after the first game of the third set.
Nadal needed treatment on his right knee at the start of the third set
Nadal, who had earlier been hitting his trademark brutal forehands, was broken somewhat limply in his first game after returning to action and, although he had break points in the next, he was clearly struggling to cover the court and decided enough was enough after falling 3-0 behind.
Murray regretted the eventual manner of his victory but was rightly satisfied with the level of his performance, and feels it bodes well with his rematch with Cilic, who beat him in straight sets in the 2009 US Open.
"I've known Rafa since I was 13 or 14 and he is someone I always looked up to when I came up through the juniors," Murray said afterwards. "He is my favourite player to watch with his energy and I am a bit gutted for him.
"I had to come through a few tough moments at the start of the match when I was going for it a bit too much but I played really well.
Murray happy with 'smart' tennis
"I had to go for my shots and play big tennis and when the big points come you have got to try to keep them short. You do not want to play long points against Rafa - I served and volleyed a little bit and everything went well.
"If I play like I did tonight I have got a good chance (against Cilic). The nerves are going to be there because it is the chance to make the final of a Grand Slam but I lost to him at the US Open so I will be looking for revenge."
Nadal, 23, appears to have pulled out to avoid causing any further damage to his knees, which are already under scrutiny after his long lay-off with tendinitis in 2009.
"It was a similar thing that I had last year," Nadal said. "It was impossible to win the match."
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