Second seed Rafael Nadal was bundled out of the US Open on Wednesday, denying New Yorkers the chance of a third straight grand slam final between the Spaniard and Swiss maestro Roger Federer.
Top seed and world number one Federer held up his side of the bargain with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 fourth-round victory over 79th-ranked Marc Gicquel, of France, but Nadal was bounced 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1 by an inspired Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals.
The unseeded Russian, ranked 54, continuously hit out from both wings, putting Nadal on the defensive and setting up angles for winners.
He found the mark with amazing consistency, cracking 49 winners against just 23 for Nadal, who lost a golden chance to seize the edge in the third set before being trampled in the finishing set.
"It was a very tough match," Youzhny said after his three hour 16-minute victory. "I can't believe I beat Rafael in four sets."
"I think it was one of the best matches in my career."
Youzhny's victory lifted him to his first grand slam semi-final, where he will face 2003 champion Andy Roddick, an emphatic 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 winner against 2001 titlist Lleyton Hewitt.
The 20-year-old lefthander, gracious in defeat, said he had played his best tennis of the tournament despite falling to the Russian.
"Maybe I play my best match in New York here today," Nadal said. "My best tennis. Youzhny was playing unbelievable tennis."
Nadal had been hoping to reach his first US Open final for a possible third successive grand slam final showdown against world number one Roger Federer, whom he beat in the Roland Garros final before falling to the Swiss star at Wimbledon.
Federer took his next step toward claiming a third straight US Open title by joining women's top seed Amelie Mauresmo in posting straight-sets wins at Flushing Meadows.
The top seed blasted 15 aces and had 42 winners in his win but Gicquel produced a respectable showing by committing only 22 unforced errors, seven fewer than the Swiss.
Federer will play fifth-seeded American James Blake, a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 winner against 12th seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Federer won the first three games against Gicquel without losing a point.
"That was great, that got me going," Federer, who has yet to lose a set, said about his awesome start. "I think that was even a key to the match."
Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, was pushed to two tiebreakers before beating 18-year-old Tatiana Golovin 7-6, 7-6 and advance to the semi-finals against Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Mauresmo, who dismissed Russian Dinara Safina 6-2, 6-3.
"It's good to be able to be in control, feel good on the court, and really get a good rhythm," Mauresmo said after the 62-minute affair.
"Today I felt pretty good on the court."
Second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne set up a semi-final match against Serbian Jelena Jankovic by battling past Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 6-4 in a battle of former champions.
Youzhny pulled off his shocker with a turnabout in the third set when Nadal looked poised to grab a two sets to one lead.
The Russian battled back from 0-40 to save three set points, one when Nadal slammed an easy forehand putaway into the net, before holding serve for 5-5 and forcing a tiebreaker, which he won 7-5 by winning the last three points.
He said support from New York's large Russian emigre community had given him a lift. "I was really glad when during the match a lot of people start to say, 'Misha, Misha'. They helped me a little bit."
In other matches, Russian Nikolay Davydenko completed a rain-delayed 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 fourth-round victory over British teenager Andy Murray, while 14th seed Tommy Haas edged former champion Marat Safin, Safina's brother, 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6.
Davydenko needed only 36 minutes to whip Murray 6-0 during the one set played on Wednesday after rain interrupted their match a day earlier.
"I never played against someone who's played a set as well as that," said Murray.