A tearful Rafa Nadal was stunned 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 by fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, wrecking his bid to hold all four grand slam titles at once.
A leg injury suffered early in the match made the world number one’s quest to become only the third man, and first since 1969, to achieve the iron man feat almost impossible.
Nadal, the 2009 Melbourne champion, took a medical timeout after just three games after appearing to tweak his left hamstring, shaking his head as he trudged off Rod Laver Arena.
A tortured Nadal slumped in his seat with his head in his hands after another thumping forehand down the line gave Ferrer a two-set lead.
Moments later, he was choking back tears after Ferrer tore into a 3-0 lead in the third but he battled like a true champion to get on the board, even forcing a break point at 4-2 down."It’s a difficult day for me," a glum-looking Nadal told reporters. "Obviously I didn’t feel at my best, I had a problem at the beginning and after that the match was almost over. Nadal’s 2010 challenge ended at the same stage when he retired hurt against Britain’s Andy Murray.
The nine-times grand slam champion returned to the court with his thigh strapped after visiting the trainer, but was clearly in pain, wincing and muttering to his uncle and coach Toni. Seventh seed Ferrer, who had lost 11 of his previous 14 meetings with Nadal, including the last seven, showed no mercy. He kept his nerve and closed out the quarter-final with another big forehand after two hours and 33 minutes.
Ferrer had mixed feelings after advancing. “It’s not easy because Rafa is a gentleman and he played with injury as we are friendly,” he said.
Former women’s world number one Justine Henin of Belgium retired for the second time on Wednesday, citing a recurrent elbow problem, Belgian daily Le Soir reported.
“Today, the (medical) examinations are clear and the doctors are agreed that my elbow is too damaged for me to be able continuing with my passion and my job at a high level,” Henin said.
She first laid down her racket in May 2008 but on that occasion she said she wanted to step back from the professional game having spent 100 weeks as world number one.