MELBOURNE, Australia -- For more than a set Tuesday night, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray came up with tennis as breathtaking and awe-inspiring as you'll ever see.
Speed, power, tactics, all-court attack, bruising rallies -- their Australian Open quarter-final had everything.
The overflow crowd at Rod Laver Arena was rapt.
Then, Nadal broke down.
He has two chronically bad knees. On this night it was the right knee, and the Spaniard was forced to retire with Murray leading 6-3, 7-6 (2), and 3-0 in the third set.
"I don't know if still playing (it can get worse) or something. So I said, 'Well, don't repeat the same mistake like I had last year. I go to the limit, but not cross the limit, no?" Nadal said after it was over.
He said the pain was as bad as what he felt last year, when he limped through the spring (despite great results), lost early at the French Open, and missed Wimbledon entirely.
But Nadal doesn't think it's the same issue. "I worked a lot. I didn't have lot of problems for the last six months. Today is the first time, no? I felt something, I think (it was) a bad movement. But not, you know, because the knee is tired. No, I think (it's) going to be OK."
Murray surely would have preferred to earn his first Australian Open semifinal berth the old-fashioned way, by earning it. But the way he hit the ball so aggressively, served and volleyed effectively to change things up, and blasted aces when he needed to save a break point, the outcome was probably the right one.
The Scot pushed himself out of his comfort zone, and he was rewarded.
"It just all happened so sudden. There was one backhand (in the game after Nadal took a medical time out, early in the third set at 0-1, 15-15 on his serve) he didn't quite run for. I didn't realize it was such a big problem. I've seen Rafa play matches where he's obviously been in a lot of pain and discomfort, and he's played on."
The first men's quarter-final match Tuesday between No. 7 seed Andy Roddick and No. 14 Marin Cilic of Croatia saw the former bounced.
Roddick had a problem with a nerve in his neck that caused numbness in two of his fingers, preventing him from having any control over his best weapon, his serve. That was a big reason he lost 7-6 (4), 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3.
-- Canwest News Service
Full results C6