- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. (AP) - Rafael Nadal’s bid for his first Key Biscayne title has been ended by Juan Martin del Potro.

The 20-year-old Argentine upset the top-ranked Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) Thursday in the quarterfinals at the Sony Ericsson Open.

Del Potro had lost all nine sets in their four previous matches, but he was buoyed by a home-court advantage, with many transplanted Argentines in the crowd singing “Del-Po” between points.

Victoria Azarenka, a 19-year-old Belarussian, earned a berth in the women’s final by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.

The No. 6-seeded del Potro’s opponent Friday will be the winner of the last quarterfinal between No. 4 Andy Murray and No. 8 Fernando Verdasco.

Nadal’s three-hour match with del Potro built to a dramatic finish. Nadal was up two breaks in the final set at 3-love before del Potro rallied to win the next four games.

In the 12th game of the set, Nadal saved three match points, two with aces. He caught a break in the tiebreaker when his return skipped along the net cord before clearing it for a winner and a 3-2 lead.

That was the last point Nadal won. Del Potro hit three consecutive winners for a 6-3 lead, and on the final point Nadal put a backhand in the net as the crowd erupted.

Nadal is a six-time Grand Slam champion, and he won at Indian Wells two weeks ago, but his best finish at Key Biscayne was as the runner-up in 2005 and 2008.

Azarenka kept waving clenched fists during her semifinal, as if there was any doubt she meant business. Celebrating every important point she won, the teenager earned her biggest victory yet.

She’ll play for the title Saturday against the winner of the semifinal Thursday night between Serena and Venus Williams.

“It’s the first final in such a big tournament for me,” Azarenka said. “It’s the biggest moment, I would say, in my career. It’s all kind of an experience for me. It’s a new thing that I’m going to be introduced to on how to handle.”

Azarenka closed out the victory on her fourth match point when Kuznetsova netted a backhand to end the 2-hour, 40-minute endurance test played in 85-degree sunshine.

“I’m just so happy that I found energy in that fighting moment,” Azarenka said. “That was kind of adrenaline, I would say, on the last games.”

Azarenka, who trains in Scottsdale, Ariz., is ranked a career-best 10th after reaching the semifinals at Indian Wells two weeks ago.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide