Nalbandian gives tired Nadal rude awakening

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The unseeded Argentine David Nalbandian inflicted a shock 6-1, 6-2 defeat on world No 2 Rafael Nadal in the Madrid Masters yesterday to earn a semi-final with Serb Novak Djokovic. World No 1 Roger Federer saw off the determined Spanish wild card Feliciano Lopez to win 7-6, 6-4.

An out-of-sorts Nadal looked to be suffering the effects of Thursday's gruelling victory over Andy Murray as he surrended his serve five times, lost nine games in a row and made a host of unforced errors. It was the Spaniard's heaviest defeat since he lost to Julien Benneteau in Lyon in 2004 when he also won only three games, and the second time in a row he has fallen in the quarters here.

For Nalbandian, runner-up here in 2004, the victory put him in the semis for the first time this year and came as a welcome boost at the end of a disappointing season in which he has dropped out of the top 10 to 25th in the world. "Everything went right for me," he said. "I took advantage of all Rafa's errors and he never felt comfortable but I felt I played really well."

Unlike Murray, who had five break points early in his match against Nadal, the Argentine took his chances and broke in the third game. Nalbandian broke twice more to take the set 6-1 and reeled off nine games without reply to grab a 3-0 lead in the second. A frustrated Nadal slammed an easy forehand into the net to lose his serve again and there was no way back.

Lopez put up a brave fight against Federer, weathering five break points in a marathon eighth game and also saving a set point, but there was nothing he could do to stop the Swiss taking control. Federer then broke serve in the ninth game of the second set to claim his 57th win of the year. Federer next meets German Nicolas Kiefer who beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez.

Earlier, the world No 3 Djokovic powered his way to a 7-6, 6-2 win over unseeded Croat Mario Ancic. The 20-year-old Serb became the first player to take a set off Ancic this week before twice breaking serve in the second. "The second set was something else and I'm starting to feel better and better," said Djokovic. "Nalbandian will have a lot of confidence but I believe in myself."

* World No 1 Justine Henin beat Polish teenager Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-finals of the Zurich Open to maintain her incredible run this year. Henin has reached the semi-finals of all 13 tournaments she has played in.

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