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Murray crashes out at Australian Open

WORLD number four Andy Murray was sent packing from the Australian Open after losing to 14th seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain in a full sets fourth round match yesterday.

The Spaniard snapped a five-match losing streak against the Scot, a pre-tournament favorite, with a 2-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win for a place in the quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal underlined his status as world number one by beating No. 13 seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. It was his third straight time to advance to the quarterfinals in the season's opening Grand Slam.

Verdasco was outplayed by Murray in the first and third sets but managed to find the form in between to race through the second before adding an equally dominant fourth set and sneaking through the fifth.

"I just try to get the rhythm with my forehand, just try to move him all the time," said Verdasco.

"For me it was one of the biggest goals being in quarterfinals for the first time in Grand Slam, and I was feeling with big confidence and pretty fit."

The 21-year-old Murray beat both Roger Federer and Nadal in the same tournament for the first time in an exhibition tournament early this month, and has been touted as the top favorite to win the Australian Open in run-up to the Grand Slam.

"It didn't make a whole lot of difference to the way that I played in my matches. I mean, a bit more attention and stuff before the tournament started."

"And the loss did not feel terrible. You know, I had my chances. He served incredible in the fourth and fifth sets. So, you know, he deserves the credit for the win."

Verdasco will now face fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 runner-up, who scored an impressive win over American ninth seed James Blake.

Nadal, a semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, was in control throughout his one hour and 55 minutes match.

The 22-year-old, who lost to the Chilean in the quarterfinals here two years ago, improved his career record to 5-3 over Gonzalez, winning for the fourth straight time.

This was their first meeting since Nadal won in straight sets in the gold medal match at the Beijing Olympics last August.

"I am playing well, but you never know if it's gonna be enough. So I hope I can continue playing like this, and later we will see, because all the matches are very difficult," Nadal said.

"Next match is going to be very tough. I have to be ready for everything," he added.

Nadal converted six of 13 break points and the only time he fell behind in the match was when Gonzalez broke for a 2-0 lead in the third set. But Nadal broke in the fifth game and again in the seventh game to secure the victory.

The Spaniard also fired 33 winners and only committed 11 unforced errors compared to the Chilean's 22 winners and 35 errors.

"I was tired. But I don't think it's the reason to lose the game. I was able to run. I was able to compete today. I mean, maybe I didn't play my best tennis, but I can run," said Gonzalez, who fought hard from two sets down to beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the previous round.

Nadal will face No.6 seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon, who advanced to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal as he was leading No. 12 seed Gael Monfils 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 before his countryman retired with a right wrist injury.


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