Murray makes semis as injured Rafa retires
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:53
Andy Murray is through to his first Australian Open semi-final after Rafael Nadal was forced to retire early in the third set of their quarter-final encounter.
The defending champion told Murray “I’m done” as they returned to their chairs with Murray leading 6-3 7-6(2) 3-0, two games after calling for an immediate medical time-out as he felt a problem above his right knee – in the same area as the quadriceps tendon which plagued his 2009 season.
Murray will now face Marin Cilic in the final four after the Croatian saw off a spirited recovery from Andy Roddick to win 7-6(4) 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3 and reach the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career.
Nadal’s retirement was a sad end to an absorbing match that had lived up to the blockbuster billing during the first two sets as the momentum swung back and forth from the very beginning.
With the standard set high from the very first point, it was No.2 seed Nadal who drew first blood with a break in game three, breaking with a series of brutal returns before finishing the job after dispatching a short backhand.
Murray responded immediately, sealing a break back in the next game with a spellbinding topspin lob and, after serve-volleying his way out of trouble from 0-40 down in the next game, breaking once more in game six for a 4-2 lead with a crunching backhand cross-court drive that Nadal himself would have been proud of.
With boxer RIcky Hatton rather aptly watching from Murray’s box, there was a certain edge to the ferocious contest as Murray barbed comments at the umpire throughout, dropping hints about the time the Spaniard takes between points and ripping into him when Nadal delayed before challenging one call.
Murray had to battle for every game but eventually closed out the first set and was in good shape in the second before a scheduled break for the Australia Day fireworks. Nadal immediately broke after the ten-minute delay for a 4-2 lead, but once again Murray broke straight back to stay in touch.
The Scot, seeded No.5 in Melbourne, came within two points of losing the set after a string of deuces in game 12 but held firm and got off to a lightning start to the ensuing tiebreak, racing out to a 5-1 lead from which the Spaniard could not recover.
It was unclear whether or not Nadal had felt anything before the third set in his knee, but the Spaniard sat down midway through the first game to receive treatment, and was tamely broken on his return.
After being broken for a second time the defending champion decided to call time on the match before things got any worse. It was hardly the way Murray wanted to wrap up what had to that point been a thoroughly impressive display.
“I’ve known Rafa since I was 13 or 14 and he is somebody I have always looked up to,” said the Scot immediately after the match. “He is my favourite player to watch because of his energy and I am gutted for him.
“I came through a few difficult moments at the start of the match but I played well and I got my tactics right.”
And revenge will be in the air when Murray faces Cilic, the man who put him out of the US Open back in September.
“If I play like I did tonight I have got a good chance,” he added. “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.
“Cilic is obviously a big guy so I am going to keep the ball low.”
The Croatian came through his third five-setter in succession with victory over Roddick, who was hampered by a shoulder injury that stunted his serve throughout.
Nevertheless, the American dug deep in the third set and raced away with the fourth, posting a 5-0 lead before CIlic troubled the scorers.
But while many thinking that the 20-year-old had run out of steam it was Roddick who succumbed to fatigue in the fifth, slumping a break back almost immediately. The Croatian refused to see another lead slip and held out for an emotional victory, collapsing to the court when a Roddick backhand sailed out to seal victory.
“I just had a few extra gears in the last set. It wasn’t easy when he started to play a lot better,” said Cilic, who now has a perfect ten wins in 2010 so far. “I really struggled on my serve and he put a lot of pressure on me and I didn’t know what to do.
“But I just took it point-by-point – and then I got the break.”
Roddick was left rueing the injury that hampered him throughout. “I could still hit it pretty hard, I was just having trouble controlling it,” he said. “I didn’t really have full deal.”