Second-Ranked Rafael Nadal Upset at U.S. Open; Sharapova Wins

Rafael Nadal was upset Wednesday in the U.S. Open quarterfinals by 54th-ranked Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-1, thwarting an anticipated third-straight meeting against Roger Federer in the final of a Grand Slam.

"Unbelievable," Youzhny said. "I cannot believe I beat Rafa in four sets."

Youzhny never before had been beyond the fourth round of a major tournament.

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Nadal, the two-time French Open champion and this year's Wimbledon runner-up, succumbed at the end, hanging his head at changeovers in the fourth set after wasting a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker.

"I am trying to fight, but I wasn't," Nadal said. "I was not my best in the fourth, no? I know I lost a big opportunity. And after that, Mikhail is playing unbelievable ... all winners."

It was the biggest news on a busy day with plenty of action after Tuesday's almost total rainout.

On the other side of the men's draw, the top-seeded Federer moved into a quarterfinal against No. 5 James Blake, both winning in straight sets. That half's other quarterfinal will be No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko against No. 14 Tommy Haas.

Federer lost to Nadal in the French Open final, then returned the favor at Wimbledon.

"I enjoy playing against him, but there's nothing more important to me than winning the tournament in the end," Federer said. "So if I'm in the finals, it doesn't need to necessarily be Nadal. That would just add something more special to it, I guess."

There still could be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 final for the women, because top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne advanced with relative ease.

Coming off a three-set struggle against Serena Williams, Mauresmo beat No. 12 Dinara Safina 6-2, 6-3 to move a step closer to her third Grand Slam title of the year.

Mauresmo next faces No. 3 Maria Sharapova, who beat No. 27 Tatiana Golovin 7-6 (4), 7-6 (0).

"She's the one to beat right now," Sharapova said. "I feel like I have nothing to lose."

Henin-Hardenne defeated Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 6-4 in a showdown between former champions to set up a semifinal against No. 19 Jelena Jankovic, who won Tuesday.

Henin-Hardenne needed a massage after the first set for a twinge in her back and sore rib, then dropped the first five points of the second set and wound up trailing 3-1. But the Belgian broke right back, and again to go ahead 5-4.

"She hits the ball great. She competes well. She's a great athlete," Davenport said. "In my mind, she's probably the best player in the world."

Mauresmo might argue that point. Henin-Hardenne did win the French Open this year, but she was the runner-up to Mauresmo at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Mauresmo lost in the U.S. Open quarterfinals four of the previous five years, but she says she's grown more comfortable at the Grand Slam tournament that is the noisiest and requires the most travel to go from hotel to court.

"It's really something special that you have to get used to, in fact. That's really what makes a big difference here," Mauresmo said. "Before, maybe, I felt not so comfortable with that. I feel today it's really much, much better."

Like Mauresmo, Federer is aiming for major title No. 3 of 2006, but he's aiming for No. 9 of his career.

The two-time defending champion won the first 12 points en route to a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory over Marc Gicquel. Blake, meanwhile, saved all 15 break points he faced and eliminated No. 12 Tomas Bedrdych 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

Youzhny displayed the sort of aggressive and on-the-mark shotmaking he used to knock off No. 6 Tommy Robredo, No. 11 David Ferrer and No. 19 Dominik Hrbaty earlier in the tournament. Before facing Robredo, Youzhny had lost 10 matches in a row against players in the top 10. Before Wednesday, he was 0-6 against players at No. 1 or 2.

But his high-risk style worked to perfection against Nadal. Youzhny compiled more than twice as many winners as Nadal (49-23), limiting Nadal to one in the fourth set.

Youzhny said he needed to play smart to beat Nadal. "If you play like boom, boom, like a lot of players do, I have no chance," he said.

The tournament lost another personality with 2000 U.S. Open champion Marat Safin's 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) exit against pal and practice partner Haas.

Safin threw his racket to the ground with both hands during the match, letting out yells, muttering to himself.

"No. When you're 26, it's difficult to change," Safin said. "You can't teach the old dog to sit, huh?"

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