Rafael Nadal's bid to win four straight Grand Slam tournaments is over.
The injured Nadal lost his quarterfinal 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 Wednesday to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer at the Australian Open.
Nadal, who appeared to have tears in his eyes during a changeover while trailing 3-0 in the third set, took a medical timeout for an apparent leg injury after three games and was clearly out of sorts, failing to chase down balls that he would ordinarily return easily.
"This is a difficult day for me," Nadal said, adding that he preferred to not talk about the nature of the injury.
"Today I can't do more than what I did, he played at a very high level."
When pressed about the injury, Nadal added: "I don't have to tell you what I felt on the court, but it is obvious I did not feel at my best. I had a problem with the match at the very beginning, and after that, the match was almost over."
It was the second year in a row he lost in the quarterfinals here due to injury – in 2010 he retired against Andy Murray due to a right knee ailment that kept him off the tour for two months, again on the Australia Day national holiday.
"This is one big victory for me, but it's not like a victory really," seventh-seeded Ferrer said on court after the match. "He was playing with injury ... and I had luck. But I played my game."
Nadal, who didn't bother chasing the winner on match point, won last year's French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open and was trying to add the Australian title so he could hold all four major trophies at once. That hasn't been achieved since Rod Laver won four in a row in 1969.
The only fireworks came Wednesday night during the match – Australia Day celebrations forced a 10-minute interruption while the sky outside Rod Laver was lit up by a pyrotechnics show.
As the fireworks exploded, Nadal changed his shirt and briefly left the stadium. He came back a couple of minutes later and took off his right shoe and fidgeted with his toes and sock.
After losing the second set, the usually fidgety Nadal slumped in his chair at the changeover, completely still with his head bent.
The crowd cheered almost exclusively for Nadal – "Come on, Rafa," – they roared, while often applauding Ferrer's errors.
All, eventually, for nothing.
Nadal came to Australia with a virus he picked up in Doha, Qatar two weeks ago. He sweated profusely in several of his matches, but appeared to be over his problems, saying after his fourth-round win over Marin Cilic that he thought he had recovered.
Murray won't have to get past Nadal this year, but he will have to beat Ferrer and either defending champion Roger Federer or 2008 champion Novak Djokovic to claim his first major title.
He advanced earlier with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3 win over unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov, after Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva advanced to the women's semifinals.
Click on the links for other reports