Murray can win it, claims Nadal

The Spaniard tips the Briton for the Australian Open title even as the defending champion faces another spell on the sidelines with a recurring knee injury.

Rafael Nadal cast aside his long-term injury fears to tip Andy Murray to win an elusive grand slam title yesterday. The Spaniard was forced to retire from his quarter-final match with Murray due a recurrence of the tendinitis problem in his right knee that forced him to miss last year's Wimbledon championship. Murray was 6-3, 7-6, 1-0 up when Nadal bowed out and playing with such authority that even a fully-fit Nadal would have struggled to contain him.

The British No 1, who is yet to drop a set, will now meet Marin Cilic, a surprise last-eight winner over Andy Roddick, in the semi-final on Thursday. "I think he deserves to win his first grand slam and I think he's going to do it," said Nadal, the six-time grand slam winner and defending champion at the Australian Open. "There's a very good chance for him. First thing, he's playing very well and second thing, he's already in the semi-finals - he's only two matches away."

Nadal was diagnosed with tendinitis in both quadriceps tendons and a small amount of fluid on the kneecaps following his shock French Open defeat last year and the latest setback will cast fresh doubt over the longevity of the 23-year-old's hugely-promising career. "[The pain] was a similar thing that I had last year," admitted Nadal. "It was impossible to win the match." The victory was Murray's second in succession over Nadal at a grand slam event, following on from his US Open win in 2008, and showed how far the fifth seed has developed since the mauling he received at the hands of the Spaniard at Wimbledon in 2008.

"When the big moments came in the match, I thought I dictated what happened," said Murray. "I didn't know when he hurt his knee, when he started feeling it. But I played very well and deserved to be up when the match was stopped. I'm disappointed that the match couldn't have finished as I would have liked, but ... I feel like I would have had a chance of going on to finish the match."