- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

1:06 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia — 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 simply was dominating in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory that took just slightly more than 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 never have played better.

“I played really unbelievable tennis,” he said. “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 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.

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.”

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