Melbourne : Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open dream lay in tatters on Tuesday with the third seed crushed by Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals, but Maria Sharapova showed who’s boss by slapping down Eugenie Bouchard.
The out-of-sorts Spaniard, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, was never in contention against a player he had beaten the last 17 times they met stretching back to 2006.
The Czech seventh seed insisted ahead of the match that the imposing statistic meant little and he came out of the blocks firing, winning 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7/5) despite a mini Nadal revival in the third set.
“I started pretty well, but you are playing Rafa and you have to keep going until the last point,” said Berdych, who also made the semis last year, losing to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka. Berdych will now face Andy Murray in the semis.
British sixth seed Murray proved too experienced for Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios, winning in straight sets to reach semi-finals. Murray, a three-time runner-up, downed the 19-year-old 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 in 2hr 5min and will face seventh seed Czech Tomas Berdych for a place in the final.
The Scot was too composed and steady for the exciting 19-year-old and took his record over Australian players to 11-0 before a partisan home crowd.
Murray grabbed three service breaks and only conceded a service break deep in the final set to underline his dominance over the 53rd-ranked Kyrgios.
He hit 48 winners and just 28 unforced errors, while serving 13 aces and winning 80 percent of his first serves. Kyrgios played at his usual high tempo and made 38 errors, 22 of them off his forehand, while winning 65 percent first serves.
“It was a tricky match in windy conditions and I tried to start as quickly as possible because I know how dangerous Nick is,” Murray said. Murray reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the fifth time where he will take on Berdych, who holds a 6-4 winning record over the Scot.
In contrast to Nadal’s lacklustre performance, the experienced Sharapova dominated young Canadian pretender Bouchard to set up an all-Russian semi-final with dark horse Ekaterina Makarova.
The world number two, who could claim the top ranking from arch-rival Serena Williams if she wins the title, showed her intent by breaking the seventh seed in the first game of the match and never looked back.
Billed as a Glam Slam showdown between two of the game’s most marketable women, an intense Sharapova was all business in the crushing 6-3, 6-2 win on a cool, overcast Melbourne day.
“She’s been playing so well at Slams, so confident and so aggressive,” said the Russian, gunning for a sixth Grand Slam crown and her first in Australia since 2008.
She now faces Makarova, who raced through her match against third seed Simona Halep, thrashing the more-fancied Romanian 6-4, 6-0. The 26-year-old has made the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park twice previously but never before advanced to the semis in seven attempts.
In the other women’s quarter-finals, to be played today, top seed Serena Williams meets last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova while her sister Venus takes on teenage American Madison Keys.
If the Williams sisters both win, they will face each other across the net at a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2009 Wimbledon final, which Serena won.