ANDY MURRAY crashed out of the French Open in disappointing fashion as David Ferrer beat him 6-4 6-7 (3/7) 6-3 6-2 in the quarter-finals.
Murray had never beaten the wall-like Spaniard in three previous meetings on clay and the Scot simply made too many errors to change that statistic in cool and wet conditions.
There was a glimmer of hope when he took the second set on a tie-break, but a rain delay seemed to knock the Scot out of his rhythm and, when he did move ahead, he could not make it count -- he broke serve five times in the match only to give it straight back on every occasion.
Murray remains without a Grand Slam title in his career, and he must now wait for the grass of Wimbledon later this month before he focuses on ending that seemingly endless situation.
The fourth seed made 59 unforced errors in the match compared to 32 from Ferrer, but it was his second serve that betrayed him, with the Scotsman winning only 39pc of points when his first serve failed to find the target. He cut a demoralised figure as Ferrer broke him for a third time in the fourth set to complete the win.
Rafael Nadal took another major stride towards a record seventh French Open title by beating Nicolas Almagro 7-6 6-2 6-3 to set up a semi-final showdown with Ferrer.
The world No 2 has yet to drop a set and, despite being below his best, he was still too good for his fellow Spaniard.
At least the first set was close. The first break point of the match, which Almagro saved with a smash, did not come until the 11th game.
The tie-break, however, was all too predictable. Nadal won the first three points, went 4-0 up with a huge winning forehand after an exhausting 34-stroke rally and won the tie-break 7-4 after 62 minutes with a service winner.
In the second set, Nadal made the first break of serve in the fourth game and survived the first break-point against his own serve in the seventh. When Almagro served at 2-5 he was broken again as Nadal converted his first set-point.
The third set was interrupted by a rain stoppage, after which Almagro enjoyed one of his best spells of the match. Going for his shots, particularly on his forehand, the world No 13 forced two break points at 2-2, but Nadal held firm.
Three games later, Almagro handed his opponent his final break with a double fault and Nadal went on to serve out for victory, which he completed with an ace after two hours and 46 minutes.
Victory in Sunday's final would establish Nadal as the most successful player ever at Roland Garros. The Spaniard is currently tied with Bjorn Borg on six French Open triumphs.
He has lost only one match in his eight visits to these courts, having gone out in the fourth round to Sweden's Robin Soderling three years ago, when his knees were in such a state that he was forced to miss the grass-court season. (© Independent News Service)
Live, Setanta Ireland, 1.0