Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Nadal knocked out in Australia

AGONY AND ECSTASYFernando Gonzalez qualified for his first-ever Grand Slam semi-final by sending Rafael Nadal packing, while Kim Clijsters also advanced

AGENCIES , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

This combination of photos shows Maria Sharapova of Russia making a running backhand shot over her shoulder in her women's singles quarter-final match against compatriot Anna Chakvetadze at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

A stunned Rafael Nadal was turfed out of the Australian Open yesterday by Fernando Gonzalez as Kim Clijsters ended the dreams of Martina Hingis to set up a semi-final showdown with Maria Sharapova.

Russian third seat Nikolay Davydenko joined Nadal on the scrapheap, beaten by unfancied German Tommy Haas in five tough sets.

Haas will now meet Gonzalez for a place in the final after the red-hot Chilean shocked the second seeded Spaniard 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 to make his first-ever Grand Slam semi in 24 attempts.

"I'm so happy. I have played in quite a few quarters but never won. Today though I played unbelievable tennis," said Gonzalez, who has hit the best form of his life under experienced American coach Larry Stefanki.

"I never played three matches in a row at this level," Gonzalez told a news conference. "I've been playing really good, serving really well and hitting my forehand all around the court."

Gonzalez, 26, said he was not surprised by his form.

"I have new strategies and it is making me play much better. Tommy is a very good player with lots of experience but I think, I hope, I will win," he said.

Clijsters, the fourth seed, scraped through 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 against triple champion Hingis, surviving a mid-match wobble in her final appearance at Melbourne Park before retiring at the end of the year.

It was an uncharacteristic display by Clijsters, who made a whopping 62 unforced errors to Hingis's 20, and she knows she must restrict them against the Russian pin-up today.

"I wasn't really seeing the ball too well but all you can do is fight and work for every point and that's what I did," said the Belgian, who is getting married and settling down at the end of the season. "I will have to be sharper tomorrow. Maria fights a lot and is an incredible athlete. Hopefully, I won't make 62 unforced errors again."

Clijsters was once known as "Aussie Kim" when she dated local hero Lleyton Hewitt while Hingis has made the final here six times and the Melbourne Park crowd retains a soft spot for both players.

They were both warmly received yesterday and Clijsters paid tribute to Hingis, who returned to tennis at the Open last year after a three-year injury layoff.

"She's a good friend and she has a lot of tennis left in her yet," Clijsters said.

Sharapova came through a tough clash with 12th seed Anna Chakvetadze 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, but it was an unconvincing performance against a dogged opponent who refused to be dominated in her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

The 19-year-old top seed, who has just reclaimed the world No. 1 ranking, admitted it was scratchy but said she was smarter than Chakvetadze.

"I thought I was a little bit up and down, a bit scratchy," Sharapova said.

"Against a girl like that who gets a lot of balls back, it's just a matter of who can be a little bit smarter, who can get an extra ball back, who is a little tougher," she said. "I thought I did the job really well today."

Sharapova committed 41 unforced errors and six double faults in a tightly-contested match and acknowledged she too would have to improve against Clijsters.

"I'm looking forward to a really tough match in the next round but definitely have to step it up and I hope I can go all the way this year and win it," she said.

Two-time champion Serena Williams, unseeded here after an injury-hit last year, and Czech 10th seed Nicole Vaidisova play each other in the other semi-final, also today.

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