Gonzalez upsets Nadal, Sharapova faces Clijsters

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Aprafaelnadal2.jpg' class='caption'> Fernando Gonzalez knocked second-ranked Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open and advance to his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Fernando Gonzalez rode his big serve and even bigger forehand to knock second-ranked Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open and advance to his first Grand Slam semifinal. Shedding the inconsistencies that hampered him in the past, Gonzalez was simply dominating in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory that took just over two hours. The Chilean broke Nadal five times, and his 41 winners were almost triple Nadal's 14. His 10 aces gave him 76 in five matches for the tournament lead; Andy Roddick is second with 71. The 10th-seeded Gonzalez said he may have never played better. "Tonight I played really unbelievable tennis. I hope to continue this week. I am trying to slice more, trying to run more. I used to just hit, hit, hit, and maybe I win the point." Nadal said he was hampered by pain in his left leg and buttock that cropped up after his last match, a five-setter against Andy Murray. "I can't run a lot," he said, adding that he hopes to play Davis Cup in a week but will go to a doctor first. "It was difficult to play one match like this, quarterfinals of one Grand Slam, with pain." Gonzalez next plays Germany's Tommy Haas on Friday. The 12th-seeded Haas saved a match point before upsetting No 3 Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5. Clijsters beats Hingis Fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters, starting her farewell tour, earlier beat friend Martina Hingis 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the women's semifinals. She will face top-seeded Maria Sharapova, who advanced to the semifinals for the third straight year with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over Anna Chakvetadze, a fellow 19-year-old Russian. Sharapova double-faulted on break point three times, but she had the only point on serve in the tiebreaker. "It was very difficult, I didn't feel like we had a lot of easy rallies," Sharapova said. "I felt I had to work on every point." Twenty of Gonzalez's winners came off his stinging forehand, one of the best in the game, which kept Nadal off-balance and unable to get into the long rallies that he relishes. "I think that my forehand was the key of the match," Gonzalez said. "I've been playing really good, feeling the ball, defending, serving really well and, of course, hitting my forehand all around the court." Gonzalez broke Nadal twice in the first set and again in the opening game of the second when the Spaniard crashed a forehand into the net on double breakpoint. Gonzalez saved a breakpoint in the eighth game with a stunning forehand swipe, and took a 2-0 lead when Nadal's service return landed long on set point. Nadal called for a medical time-out because of his leg after the third game of the third set. Because he had to remove his long shorts, he had to leave the court for treatment. Gonzalez pounced on a second serve at break point in the fifth game of the third set, ripping a forehand winner for a 3-2 lead. Nadal sent a pair of forehands wide on the last two points while serving at 3-5 to surrender the match. "If I am playing bad, you can go home and say `disappointing,' " Nadal said. "But today I just say, well, I can't do more. I try my best." Lucky to win Clijsters wasn't sure how she won after making 62 unforced errors and dropping serve five times. "I still am asking myself," said the 23-year-old Belgian, who has announced she will retire at the end of the year. "I think the only two things that I did well today was I fought and I tried." Sixth-seeded Hingis is a three-time former champion here and reached the finals three other times. The fans virtually adopted Clijsters while she was dating Australian player Lleyton Hewitt. Clijsters had trouble with just about everything at first against Hingis and double-faulted on set point. Hingis contributed to the malaise with a mix-it-up strategy that included drawing the Belgian to the net, then sending lobs over her head. "She's a player who really feels it," Clijsters said of Hingis. "She knows when the opponent's not playing well. She plays on your weaknesses." Clijsters finally started finding the range, breaking Hingis twice in the second set. Hingis staved off four break points while serving at 3-3 in the deciding set before Clijsters converted the fifth. Frustrated, Hingis angrily spiked her racket in the next game, then twice kicked balls in the ninth as she fell behind 15-40 while serving at 3-5. A forehand winner down the line ended the match. "It was definitely the most disappointing loss against her I've had," said Hingis, 0-4 against Clijsters since her comeback and 4-5 overall. "Some players wouldn't have come back, but she did. She's a great fighter." Clijsters ended Hingis' remarkable comeback run here in the quarterfinals last year, when the Swiss star was ranked No. 349 and returning from three years off the circuit because of injuries. She also beat Hingis in the quarterfinals at the French Open. "It's great playing her and everything, but I don't want to see her in the quarterfinals ever again," Hingis said, laughing. "It's like every time I get to the quarters I have to face Kim."

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