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Edmund and Mertens continue their giant-killing act; Bopanna & Babos advance
Rafael Nadal’s drive towards a second Australian Open title came to a shuddering injury-induced halt on a day of upsets that saw unseeded Kyle Edmund and Elise Mertens make the semifinals.
A wincing Nadal struggled with a muscle strain in his upper right thigh from late in the fourth set before abandoning the match at 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, 2-0, leaving a packed Rod Laver Arena crushed with disappointment.
It was only the second time the World No. 1 has retired in over 250 Grand Slam matches, his last, coincidentally, during the 2010 quarterfinals against Andy Murray. “It’s not the first time here,” an ashen-faced Nadal told reporters.
“I am a positive person … but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinals of a Grand Slam.” Of the seven Grand Slam quarterfinal defeats of his career, five have now come on the blue hardcourts at Melbourne Park. The 16-time Grand Slam champion said he felt the strain in the third set but was not affected until the fourth when it twinged during a scramble for a drop-shot.
He signed off his news conference on a sour note, complaining that too many players were getting injuries. “Somebody who is running the tour should think a little bit about what’s going on,” said the Spaniard. “I don’t know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Cilic will meet Britain’s Edmund, who stunned third seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Mertens, who is yet to drop a set, was equally convincing in blasting past World No. 4 Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to become the first Belgian to make the semifinals since Kim Clijsters in 2012.
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