Russian upsets second seed in thriller to become favourite for title after Serena pulls out
Madrid: Maria Sharapova booked her place in the Last Four of the Madrid Open with a three-set win over Li Na, but top seed and reigning champion Serena Williams was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a thigh injury yesterday.
Maria Sharapova waves to the crowd after her win at the Madrid Masters yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Meanwhile in the men's event, World No 1 Rafael Nadal stormed into the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters with his 17th consecutive win over Tomas Berdych, 6-4, 6-2.
Despite coming into the tournament with doubts following surprise defeats to David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro in recent weeks, Nadal has looked in fine form in the Spanish capital as he has cruised into the Last Four without the loss of a set.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion will meet compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut or Colombia's Santiago Giraldo today for a place in the final.
Serena pulls out
Williams was due to face Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals but pulled out due to a thigh injury she had been carrying since sweeping aside Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic in the first round on Sunday.
Rafael Nadal. Pic/AFP
"I have a left thigh injury and, unfortunately, have to withdraw from this year's Madrid Open," said Williams.
"It happened during my first round match. It started to get better, but most importantly right now, I just need some time to rest and recover. It's beyond words. It's so frustrating."
However, the American insisted that she will try to defend her title at the Italian Open in Rome next week.
"I am planning to play in Rome. Fortunately, I have a bye next week so will have an extra day of rest. For now, I will take it one day at a time and take advantage of some extra rest."
Sharapova has been beaten by Williams in Madrid in the last two years, including in the 2013 final, and the Russian is now the favourite to clinch her first title in the Spanish capital as she edged a thrilling match against second seed Li 2-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
"I will say the match was very close. I think it really could have gone her way today," admitted Sharapova.
"It was just a matter of a few points in the second set and in the third, although I was up a break throughout the third set, you know she's not going to let go. I didn't win the match until the last point was played."
The four-time Grand Slam champion will face third seed Agnieszka Radwanska or French qualifier Caroline Garcia in the semi-finals.
Also into today's semis is fourth seed Simona Halep as she set up a meeting with Kvitova thanks to a 6-2, 6-2 thrashing of Serbia's Ana Ivanovic.
Number of sets Rafael Nadal has dropped en route to entering the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters
Number of times Rafael Nadal has beaten Tomas Berdych consecutively after his 6-4, 6-2 win yesterday