Nadal crashes out, Sharapova cruises to semi-finals

MELBOURNE - Rafael Nadal's Australian Open dream lay in tatters yesterday, with the third seed crushed by Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals, but Maria Sharapova showed who's boss by slapping down Eugenie Bouchard.

The out-of-sorts Spaniard, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, was never in contention against a player he had beaten in their last 17 encounters, stretching back to 2006.

The Czech seventh seed insisted ahead of the match that the imposing statistic meant little and he came out of the blocks firing, winning 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), despite a mini Nadal revival in the third set.

"I was definitely ready for it and set up my plan pretty well, and I stuck with that through those three sets," said Berdych, who also made the semi-finals last year, losing to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka.

Nadal had no excuses, admitting he played "a very bad" match.

"I am not very happy because I didn't compete the way I wanted to compete in the first two sets, and that's something that I don't like," he said.

"The season is long, beginnings are tough. I need to be ready to accept all the situations that happen and try to be strong."

In contrast to his lacklustre performance, the experienced Sharapova dominated young Canadian pretender Bouchard to set up an all-Russian semi-final with dark horse Ekaterina Makarova.

The world No. 2, who could claim the top ranking from archrival Serena Williams if she wins the title, showed her intent by breaking the seventh seed in the first game of the match and never looked back.

Billed as a Glam Slam showdown between two of the game's most marketable women, an intense Sharapova was all business in the crushing 6-3, 6-2 win on a cool, overcast Melbourne day.

"She's been playing so well at Slams, so confident and so aggressive," said the Russian, gunning for a sixth Grand Slam crown and her first in Australia since 2008.

"I just really tried to take that away from her a little bit. I did a great job of that today."

She now faces Makarova, who raced through her match against third seed Simona Halep, thrashing the more fancied Romanian 6-4, 6-0.

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