Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Unseeded Russian ends Nadal's Open

SPANISH SHOCKER The crowd favorite just couldn't cope with some amazingly consistent play from his inspired opponent, who meets Andy Roddick for a spot in the final

AFP , NEW YORK

No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova of Russia stretches for a return to No. 27 seed Tatiana Golovin of France on Wednesday in the quarter-finals of the US Open Tennis Championship in Flushing Meadows, New York.

PHOTO: AFP

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal crashed out of the US Open on Wednesday, losing to Mikhail Youzhny who has made a habit of ousting Spanish top seeds at the US$18.5 million event.

The unseeded Russian defeated the two-time French Open champion and Wimbledon finalist Nadal 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7), 6-1 in their quarter-final match.

Youzhny will play the US' Andy Roddick who fired off an impressive 17 aces en route to a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Lleyton Hewitt of Australia for a place in the final.

The Russian, ranked 54, continuously hit out from both wings, putting Nadal on the defensive and setting up the 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."

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."

FINAL SHOWDOWN

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 in the next round, 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.

Battling disPlay

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," he said.

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