World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was denied a first Masters Miami title on Thursday when the Spaniard was upset by Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) in quarterfinal play at the Sony Ericsson Open.
It was the rangy Argentine’s first win over Nadal in five career meetings. Nadal looked agitated and off his game, a different player from the one that rolled past Del Potro 6-2, 6-4 two weeks ago en route to winning Indian Wells.
Nadal was up two breaks in the third, and then saved three match points in the 12th game to force the tiebreaker, but Del Potro ran off the last five points of the breaker for the win.
“Maybe it was wonderful for the crowd but it was terrible for me,” Nadal told reporters. “I think I played really bad all the time. That’s the truth of this match. Later when I was 3-0 up in the third I played worse…I had the match, it was amazing disaster.”
It is the first career Masters Series semifinal for Del Potro.
“Always I was keeping going and keeping trying,” Del Potro told reporters. “I beat him with my mind and with my game. When we played long points, I was dominating every time, so that was the key of the last set, of the tiebreak. I served very good, and with my forehand with big confidence. To beat Rafa, you have to be in good shape and every part of your game, and today I did a great job. I played unbelievable. I beat the No. 1 of the world.”
In the night quarterfinal, Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco’s game was about as attractive as his faux-hawk, with the pointy-haired Spaniard coming out tight against Andy Murray.
Verdasco dropped the first four games of the match, barking nervously toward his coaches box before succumbing 6-1. Verdasco received treatment on his back from the trainer throughout the match. The second set was an equal disaster for the Spaniard when Murray jumped out to another 4-0 lead before Verdasco finally held for 1-4. Murray then closed out the injured Spaniard 6-1, 6-2.
Murray and Del Potro will square off in the semis, with the Brit winning both their career encounters last year, on clay at Rome and on hardcourt at the US Open. On Friday their semifinal will be at 7pm, with the other semi between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic beginning at 1pm (EST).
“I have a good record against Novak, so I hope I can play well against him again,” Federer said. “Here I had to adjust a little bit to the night conditions, but I thought it was much easier than in Indian Wells where the ball is flying much more during the day.”
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