Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Nadal's Australian Open goes true to his prediction

Published:Wednesday | January 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

Rafael Nadal kept telling anyone who would listen that his fitness levels wouldn't stand up to the rigours of a two-week Grand Slam tournament. Tomas Berdych proved him right.

Nadal, who had played only eight matches since last June coming into the Australian Open because of a right wrist injury and appendix surgery in early November, was knocked out in the quarter-finals 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (5) yesterday by Berdych - who had lost 17 straight matches to the Spaniard.

"It is obvious that I needed something more to be more competitive," Nadal, a 14-time major winner, said. "As I said when I arrived here, the process always is not easy. When you have injuries, comebacks are difficult. But without being at my top level of tennis, I was able to be here in quarter-finals. Is not a bad result at all for me."

Berdych, while thankful for the win, was reminded of a quote from the late Vitas Gerulaitis after beating Jimmy Connors for the first time in 16 matches: "Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row."

So no one, not even Nadal, could beat Berdych 18 times in a row?

"I've heard that one already," Berdych said, smiling.

The other men's semi-finalists will be determined today when top-seeded Novak Djokovic plays Milos Raonic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka takes on US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori.

Berdych will play sixth-seeded Andy Murray in the semis after the British player beat local hope Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Kyrgios came back from two sets down and saved a match point in the fourth round Sunday before beating Italian Andreas Seppi, the player who eliminated Roger Federer in the third round. But there was no such comeback yesterday.

The 19-year-old Kyrgios, who walked on to the court with his headphones on and gave two thumbs-up to the crowd, was at his crowd-pleasing best. After hitting a backhand drop shot at the net for a winner in the second set, he spread out his arms for applause, and in the third set, he hit a between-the-legs shot that Murray easily returned.

"It was a tricky match," Murray said. "I tried to start as quick as possible because I know how dangerous Nick is. He's a huge hitter of the ball, so I tried to keep it out of his strike zone as much as possible. Thankfully, it worked."

Kyrgios, who beat Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, likes Murray's chances now that both Nadal and Federer are out of the Scotsman's half of the draw.

"I said to him at the net, 'This is your time, go for it'. I think he's got a really good chance of winning the whole thing," Kyrgios said.

On the women's side, Maria Sharapova moved closer to another Australian Open title, defeating 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-2.The Russian made all the big points look easy and advanced to play Ekaterina Makarova, who earlier beat third-seeded Simona Halep 6-4, 6-0.

"I felt pretty good from the start, didn't feel I had too many letdowns," Sharapova said, adding that her close call in the second round - facing two match points against a qualifier - sharpened her focus for the rest of the tournament.

The other women's semi-finalists will be determined today when No. 1-ranked Serena Williams plays last year's finalist, Dominika Cibulkova, and Venus Williams, playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final in nearly five years, takes on 19-year-old American Madison Keys.

If the Williams sisters play each other in the semi-finals, it would be their first meeting in a Grand Slam tournament since the Wimbledon final in 2009 - won by Serena.