New York--David Ferrer of Spain sent second seed Rafael Nadal tumbling out of the U.S. Open in a fourth-round tie early Wednesday, ending his compatriot's hopes of a third straight Grand Slam final against Roger Federer.
Ferrer's 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory marked the first time in five meetings stretching over three years that he had managed to get the better of Nadal and it put him into a quarter-final match against Juan Ignacio Chela.
Nadal had beaten Federer in the French Open final but lost to the Swiss world number one in the Wimbledon final.
For Nadal, who has struggled with a knee injury from the start of the tournament, it was another U.S. Open flop and he has failed to get past the last eight in five campaigns to date.
"I am very tired. I had to run a lot," said the 25-year-old Ferrer.
"I am happy for myself--it is a very special night for me but I am sorry for my friend Rafa. In the tough moments he plays very well."
The match between two tried and trusted claycourters started at around 10 pm and any hopes of a quick conclusion were stymied as they shared the first two sets in just under two hours.
Ferrer was in command of most of the rallies against a curiously subdued-looking Nadal and it was no surprise when he took an all-important third set.
Sensing blood, Ferrer kept up the pressure as a struggling Nadal needed treatment on his knee tendons and for cramps in his left (hitting) hand.
The older of the two Spaniards broke early in the fourth set to lead 4-2 and then Nadal crumpled over in pain in a corner after a Ferrer smash made it 5-2.
The 20-year-old Mallorcan gamely came back out to serve, but it was soon all over, Nadal pushing a speculative lob long on match point.