MELBOURNE, Jan 26, 2011 (AFP) - Injury-hit world number one Rafael Nadal was sensationally dumped from the Australian Open quarter-finals 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 by Spanish compatriot David Ferrer on Wednesday.
Rafael Nadal sits during a break during his match against David Ferrer on January 26, 2011. AFP
The defeat ended Nadal's bid for a fourth straight Grand Slam victory after winning last year's French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. Only Don Budge and Rod Laver have held all four titles at the same time.
Nadal looked troubled by a strapped left hamstring injury which he appeared to pick up in a drawn-out second game of the match, and needed medical timeouts to see out the 2hr 33min match on Rod Laver Arena.
It was seventh seed Ferrer's fourth win over Nadal in 15 encounters and he will now play British fifth seed Andy Murray in Friday's semi-final.
Nadal later said he did not want to talk about his injury out of respect for his friend Ferrer.
"I can say nothing about the injury. Seriously, I would prefer that I don't talk a lot about the injury," Nadal said. "In respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match.
"I think he played at a very high level. I congratulate him and wish him all the best for the semi-final. I think he's having a fantastic tournament.
"If he keeps playing like this, he is going to have a good chance."
It will be Ferrer's second Grand Slam semi-final after he reached the last four at the 2007 US Open.
"It's not easy because Rafael is a gentleman and he was playing injured and we are friends," Ferrer said. "He was injured in the first set but I played my game, I fought a lot and sometimes it's not easy."
Nadal dug in and played on out of respect for his friend Ferrer and to give him the satisfaction of beating him on the court, and not via an injury retirement.
It was deja vu for the top seed, who pulled out during his quarter-final with Murray on exactly the same date at last year's Australian Open with a knee problem.
His defeat also ended his 25-match Grand Slam winning streak going back to last year's French Open, four off the record run of 29 held by Rod Laver.
Nadal was struggling throughout the opening set and was broken three times by Ferrer, but appeared to move more freely in the second set when he broke Ferrer's second service game.
But Ferrer secured a triple service break to claim the second set and a stranglehold on the match against the stricken Nadal.
Ferrer again broke Nadal's opening service in the third set as the inevitability of defeat loomed to end his dream of his fourth straight Grand Slam.
Nadal's service was broken a total of seven times, while Ferrer hit 44 winners to Nadal's 19. The top seed struggled with 34 errors.
It had been a troubled tournament for the Spanish superstar who arrived with a virus he picked up in Doha on the way to Australia.
It was the first all-Spanish quarter-final at the Australian Open since 1997 when Carlos Moya defeated Felix Mantilla.