Murray's route to final opens up with shock defeat for Nadal

Scotsman to face Ferrer in semi-final after injured Spaniard's Grand Slam dream ends

It was a sight that nobody in tennis, except perhaps some supporters of a certain 23-year-old Scot, wanted to see. Rafael Nadal's attempt to become only the third man in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles ended in despair here last night when he lost his Australian Open quarter-final to David Ferrer in straight sets after suffering a hamstring injury early in the match.

Andy Murray, having beaten Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in his own quarter-final earlier in the day, had no doubt been expecting to renew his rivalry with the world No 1 in the semi-finals tomorrow, but instead of facing a 24-year-old who has won nine Grand Slam titles he will meet a 28-year-old who has never reached a major final.

Ferrer, whose previous best performance in a Grand Slam tournament was a run to the US Open semi-finals four years ago, has beaten Murray in all three of their meetings on clay, but has lost their only two encounters on hard courts, most recently at the O2 Arena in London two months ago. Murray will be the clear favourite in his attempt to reach his third major final – he lost to Roger Federer in New York in 2008 and here last year – as he continues his quest to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.

Nadal had taken time to recover from a virus that laid him low in Doha in his first tournament of the season, but appeared to have recovered his strength by the time he went on court for the last of the quarter-finals. With Murray having won already and Federer meeting Novak Djokovic in today's first semi-final, tournament officials must have been looking forward to a dream line-up in the last four.

After only three games, however, Nadal left the court to take a medical time-out, after which he returned with his left thigh strapped, his movement impaired and his face etched with concern. Long before the end of his 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 defeat he wore the forlorn expression of a man who knew that the chance of making more history had slipped from his grasp.

In the second set the players took a 10-minute break during Melbourne's Australia Day fireworks display, which served only to remind Nadal that this was the second year in succession that he has marked the national holiday here by suffering an injury and going out of the tournament. Since he retired with a knee problem in the third set of his quarter-final against Murray last year he had won 25 Grand Slam matches in succession, a record that only Federer and Rod Laver have beaten in the Open era.

It was to his great credit that Nadal did not quit before the end. "I hate retirements," he said afterwards. "I did that last year and I didn't want a repeat." He was reluctant to talk about the injury. "Out of respect to the winner and to a friend I prefer to talk about the match," he said. "He's having a fantastic tournament. If he keeps playing like this, he's going to have a good chance. Tonight I played against a great player."

Pressed to reveal more about his injury, Nadal said: "It's obvious that I didn't feel at my best. I had a problem during the match, at the very beginning. After that the match was almost over. It's difficult for me to speak about it. In Doha I wasn't healthy. Today I have another problem. It seems like I always have problems when I lose and I don't want to have this image."

He suspected the virus had left him susceptible to injury, but added: "I think I am a very lucky sportsman, considering what has happened in my career. When I have problems I have to accept them with the same calmness as I have the fantastic moments that I have had over the years."

Murray, who holds Nadal in the highest regard, expressed a similar view on Twitter. "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same," he tweeted, quoting the words of Rudyard Kipling that are written by the players' entrance to the Centre Court at Wimbledon.

In Ferrer, Murray will face one of the few players as quick as him around the court. The world No 7, who played more singles matches (84) than any other man on the main tour last year, may lack hitting power but is phenomenally fit. The Spaniard is unbeaten this year, having won in Auckland in his only previous tournament. "He's a really tough player," Murray said. "He makes many, many balls. He's incredibly consistent."

Despite dropping his first set in five matches here, Murray had good reason to be happy with his quarter-final victory. Dolgopolov, a 22-year-old Ukrainian, has come of age in this tournament. An unorthodox player who goes for his shots, the world No 46 served well, hitting 16 aces to Murray's nine, and struck some remarkable winners, particularly on his forehand.

Murray, however, played solid tennis throughout, constantly forcing Dolgopolov to hit the extra ball. The Ukrainian made 77 unforced errors, more than double his opponent's total. Murray took time to find his rhythm and played too tentatively in the third set tie-break, though his response in the fourth set was exemplary as he won the first 14 points without reply. Some of the Scot's shot-making was superb. He returned one Dolgopolov smash with a sensational backhand winner down the line and twice won points with exquisite sliced lobs.

Asked where his game stood in comparison with 12 months ago, Murray said: "I think I'm hitting the ball bigger than I was last year. I think there can be a lot of quite subtle differences, but I don't think there's any major change. I don't see many major changes in any of the guys really at the top of the game. You just try to become more consistent, have less weaknesses. I think this year I'm a little bit more solid."

Did he feel less pressure this year? "I'm sure the pressure in my next match might be a bit different to today, but I obviously want to try and reach the final, and, if I get there, to go on to win the tournament. Unless you've been in those positions before, you can't explain what the pressure's like. You expect a lot of yourself."

Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters, Nos 2 and 3 in the world respectively, were meeting in today's women's semi-finals after winning their quarter-final matches in straight sets. Clijsters overcame some late resistance to beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 7-6, while Zvonareva beat the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-4. Caroline Wozniacki, the world No 1, and China's Li Na were playing in the other semi-final.

George Morgan reached the quarter-finals of the boys' singles when he beat Croatia's Mate Delic 6-4, 6-7, 10-8 after more than two and a half hours. The 17-year-old Briton went on to lose his doubles match in a champions tie-break and was due back on court to play Jeson Patrombonof the Philippines in the first match today.

* Steven Martens has resigned as the Lawn Tennis Association's player director to join the Belgian Football Association as general secretary. Martens has been at the LTA for four years and has been a key figure in changes overseen by Roger Draper, the chief executive.

Murray v Ferrer

Ferrer leads 3-2 overall:

2006 Barcelona (clay) Ferrer won 4-6, 7-6, 6-1

2006 Canada (hard) Murray won 6-2, 7-6

2010 Rome (clay) Ferrer won 6-3, 6-4

2010 Madrid (clay) Ferrer won 7-5, 6-3

2010 London (hard) Murray won 6-2, 6-2

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game