MELBOURNE - Rafael Nadal limped out of the Australian Open yesterday, his title defence shattered by a recurring knee problem and a devastating display by Andy Murray.
Nadal quit when trailing Murray 6-3, 7-6, 3-0 but the match was already as good as over with the Scotsman deservedly on his way to the semifinals after a breath-taking performance.
It has been 74 years since a British man last won a Grand Slam title but the wait could soon be over if Murray can maintain his form for two more matches.
The 22-year-old has not dropped a set in Melbourne and will next face Croatia's Marin Cilic, who wore down seventh seed Andy Roddick 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3 but is nearing exhaustion after spending more than 18 hours on court to get this far.
Justine Henin's dream of winning the women's championship was also edging closer to reality. So too for Zheng Jie, the first Chinese to make the semis in Australia.
Henin booked her place in the last four with a 7-6, 7-5 win over Russia's Nadia Petrova to set up a showdown with Zheng, who defeated Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-3.
Nadal's sad exit was the latest sorry chapter for the Spanish second seed whose brilliant career has been blighted by knee injuries over the past year.
It remains to be seen how serious this latest problem is but there will be doubts as to whether the 23-year-old can ever scale the same heights as he did 12 months ago when he held the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles and was ranked No 1 in the world.
"I've known Rafa since I was 13 or 14 and he is somebody I have always looked up to," fifth seed Murray said.
"He is my favourite player to watch because of his energy and I am gutted for him."
Former world No 1 Henin is playing only her second tournament since coming out of an 18-month retirement and her victory was another triumph for her golden generation. - Reuters