David Ferrer beats Rafael Nadal

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Rafael Nadal's bid to win four straight Grand Slam tournaments is over.

The injured Nadal lost for the second straight year in the Australian Open quarterfinals, going down 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 Wednesday to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

Nadal, who appeared to have tears in his eyes during a changeover while trailing 3-0 in the third set, took a medical timeout for an apparent leg injury after three games. He was clearly out of sorts, failing to chase down balls that he would ordinarily return easily.

"This is a difficult day for me," Nadal said. "Today I can't do more than what I did, he played at a very high level."

Nadal, who didn't bother chasing the winner on match point, won last year's French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. He was trying to add the Australian title and hold all four major trophies, which hasn't been achieved since Rod Laver won four in a row in 1969.

When pressed about the injury, Nadal said: "I don't have to tell you what I felt on the court, but it is obvious I did not feel at my best. I had a problem with the match at the very beginning, and after that, the match was almost over."

Last year, he retired against Andy Murray because of a right knee ailment that kept him off the tour for two months, again on the Australia Day national holiday.

Nadal picked up a virus two weeks ago in Doha at the start of the year. He sweated profusely in several of his matches. Nadal didn't want to elaborate on his injury, saying he didn't want to use injuries as an excuse.

"In general, I had a virus. When you have a virus, your body goes down and you have more risk of everything," he said. "That's probably what happened. That's the simple thing."

The fireworks that would have lit up the tennis world had Nadal won his fourth in a row came Wednesday night during the match -- Australia Day celebrations forced a 10-minute interruption for a pyrotechnics show in the sky outside Rod Laver Arena.

As the fireworks exploded, Nadal changed his shirt and briefly left the stadium. He came back a couple of minutes later and took off his right shoe and rubbed his toes and sock.

After losing the second set, the usually fidgety Nadal slumped in his chair at the changeover, completely still with his head bent.

The crowd cheered almost exclusively for Nadal -- "Come on, Rafa" -- while often applauding Ferrer's errors.

"This is one big victory for me, but it's not like a victory really," seventh-seeded Ferrer said on court after the match. "He was playing with injury ... and I had luck. But I played my game."

Nadal appeared to be over his problems, saying after his fourth-round win over Marin Cilic that he was "perfect physically."

Murray won't have to get past Nadal this year, but he will have to beat Ferrer and either defending champion Roger Federer or 2008 champion Novak Djokovic to claim his first major title. He advanced Wednesday with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3 win over unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Dolgopolov had already beaten 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and French Open finalist Robin Soderling and has the kind of unorthodox game that can unsettle higher-ranked players.

Apart from the second set, when 2010 finalist Murray didn't lose a point on serve until he had triple set point, momentum swung frequently.

Dolgopolov had 77 unforced errors, mainly because he was trying to push Murray. In the first set, it took Murray more than 10 minutes and four set points to finally win the 12th game.

Murray spent a lot of time talking to himself.

"I was trying to get myself pumped up," Murray said. "It was very slow, cool conditions out on the court. You need to make sure you're moving your feet a lot when you're out there. You need to urge yourself to play a solid, stable match, not make too many mistakes."

A reflective Nadal pondered his loss in the quarterfinals again. He had two months off after the Australian Open last year because of the knee injury, and came back even stronger.

"Last year, I had a fantastic year," he said. "I think it is almost impossible to repeat that. I still hope to have a lot of really good moments."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.