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Nadal quits in pain to send Cilic to Australian Open semifinals

Bill Scott, DPA on

Published in Tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Rafael Nadal limped off the court after quitting in pain early in the fifth set on Tuesday to send Marin Cilic into the semifinals of the Australian Open, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 2-0.

The Spanish top seed, who had been treated on his upper right leg in the fourth set, pulled the plug after almost four hours of intense battle with the sixth seed and 2017 Wimbledon finalist.

Nadal came to Melbourne with a huge question mark hanging over his right knee as he started his season late.

"Tough moments," Nadal said. "It's not the first time an opportunity is gone for me. I'm a positive person, and I can be positive, but today is an opportunity lost to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam and fight for an important title."

The 31-year-old failed to finish a match for only the third time in almost nine years, with one of his pullouts coming in Melbourne, 2010, in a quarterfinal against Andy Murray.

"It's difficult to know exactly what it is now. It's difficult to know exactly the muscle. It just happened minutes ago, Nadal said. "We need to wait a couple of hours. Tomorrow I am going to do a test, an MRI here, then we will know."

Cilic faces a semi with unfancied Briton Kyle Edmund, who stunned third seed Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal was struggling to walk normally as he left the court, after quitting as he lost the second game of the fifth set despite saving five break points before being caught by a Cilic pass.

"It was an unbelievable performance from both of us," Cilic said. "It was uncomfortable for Rafa, but he's a competitor who always gives his best.

"It was sad to see him finish like this. I had to continue with my own game and not look too much across the net."

Cilic last beat Nadal nearly a decade ago, in Beijing, 2009, losing their next five.

This Melbourne edition will be the first since 2007 when at least two of the big four -- Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray -- were not a part of the semifinals.

Edmund's elimination of Dimitrov came with the Brit carrying the weight of his nation after Murray was forced to miss the major following knee surgery.

No. 49 Edmund is only the sixth British man to reach a Grand Slam semi since Open tennis began in 1968. One of that number, Tim Henman, was in the stands watching the upset.

 

"You don't think about records when you are playing," Edmund said. "But it's something to be proud of."

Edmund surprised Dimitrov by winning the opening set and did not falter when he then lost the second before gunning his jets over the next two sets to earn the win.

Edmund won in two hours 49 minutes, striking 46 winners and sending over 13 aces.

In the women's draw, Belgium's Elise Mertens continued her golden tournament debut defeating injured fourth seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to earn the first of the semifinal spots.

She will face 2011 semifinalist Caroline Wozniacki after the second seed fought through in the early morning hours to beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2.

The 22-year-old Mertens, who trains at the academy of former Belgian great Kim Clijsters, was hoping that her mentor might have been up in the early hours back home, watching the quarter-final showdown.

Svitolina, from Ukraine, was tipped as a title favorite and had been in the running for a shot at the WTA number one title before she fell victim to Mertens.

She later revealed that she has been dealing with a left hip injury throughout the event, managing to play only with the help of painkillers.

Victory for 39th-ranked Mertens took 73 minutes and featured 26 winners and five breaks of serve.

The last Belgian to get this far at the Australian Open was Clijsters in 2013, a year after winning the trophy.

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