Andy Murray wasn't the only one feeling pain Monday at the Australian Open.
While Murray's anguish was mostly psychological - the
fourth-seeded Scot was ousted by Spain's Fernando Verdasco 2-6,
6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 - three other players had to quit mid-match with
injuries or illness, paving the way for Serena Williams, Gilles
Simon and Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the quarterfinals.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, left 2007 runner-up Fernando
Gonzalez feeling out of sorts with another dominating performance
in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win. He has yet to drop a set and next faces the
sixth-seeded Simon, who advanced when fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils retired with a wrist injury.
"I am playing well, but you never know if it's going to be
enough," said Nadal, who had 33 winners and just 11 unforced
Verdasco will meet fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France,
who beat No. 9 James Blake 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3), leaving No. 7 Andy
Roddick as the only American in the men's draw. Tsonga was
runner-up last year to Novak Djokovic, while Blake has failed to
get past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam in 28 appearances.
Tsonga was unhappy with a delay caused by Australia Day
fireworks. Blake broke him right after they resumed play, but
Tsonga rallied and raced through the tiebreaker.
He said he feels he's improved from last year.
"It's different because I have more experience now," Tsonga
said. "I hope I will make the results better."
Williams was the biggest beneficiary of the wave of retirements.
She lost the first set to 13th-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus
and was so frustrated with her first serve that she cursed it,
earning a warning for a verbal obscenity. The 19-year-old Azarenka,
who woke up sick, had to quit in the second set.
Williams, seeking a 10th Grand Slam singles title, next plays
2004 U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova, who advanced when Zheng Jie of China retired at 4-1 in the first set. They are the only major
winners still in the women's draw.
No. 22 Zheng, hoping for victory on Chinese New Year, injured
her left wrist when she tumbled after the third game. She had
treatment immediately but retired two games later and will go for
Murray said he, too, hasn't been feeling well the last few days,
though he refused to use it as an excuse.
"I don't feel that was the reason why I lost," Murray said.
"I definitely did have my chances, and he played too well. I'm
disappointed that I lost. But I'll try and learn from it. It's not
a disaster. I'm still playing well. I lost to a good player in a
very close match. I'll have more chances to win Grand Slams."
Murray saved two match points after falling behind 40-0 in the
last game but wasn't able to fend off a third, dumping a backhand
into the net.
Murray, who lost in the U.S. Open final last year to Roger
Federer, was attempting to become the first British man since 1936
to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Verdasco saved two break points in the pivotal sixth game of the
fifth set against Murray, firing aces when he needed them and
forcing errors from the other side. He broke Murray in the
"The consistency of his first serve was pretty awesome for the
last two, three sets," Murray said.
Verdasco was a key player in Spain's Davis Cup final triumph in
Argentina, and he said he was able to draw on the experience, when
he clinched the title by rallying from a set down after doing the
same in his first match.
"I think that Davis Cup final made me much stronger mentally,"
Verdasco said. "And this preseason, I was working really hard. So
today, I was really believing in myself, that I can win the
Williams could only watch in sympathy as Azarenka deteriorated
quickly. She said she wanted to win, but not like this.
"I just want to go inside and make sure she's OK. I feel so
bad. She was playing so well," Williams said. "There are so many
more great Australian Opens out there for her."
Azarenka said she had been vomiting all morning and had a fever
with what later was diagnosed as a virus. She didn't want to
default before the match started but ran out of energy.
Azarenka, serving at 30-30 while down 2-4 in the second set,
wobbled back into the shade at the rear of the court, holding her
face and choking back tears.
She had needed a medical timeout earlier in the set and left the
playing arena. She returned for 1 1/2 games but was unable to
continue and was helped from the court soon after by two trainers.
"The doctors didn't want me to keep going, but I wanted to keep
trying and see how I do," Azarenka said. "But it was probably not
a very good idea because it just gave me even more trouble after."
The winners of the two completed women's matches will meet in
Carla Suarez Navarro, the 20-year-old Spaniard who had an upset
win over seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in the second
round, beat No. 21 Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-2.
She next plays Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva, who made
the quarterfinals for the first time in 11 years at Melbourne Park
with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova.
The fourth-seeded Dementieva, who reached the finals at the
French and U.S. Opens in 2004 but has not been to a Grand Slam
championship match since, extended her winning streak to 14
matches. She won two titles in tuneup events.