Nadal closer to big match-up
NEW YORK – At the start, Rafael Nadal would say later, he was “scared” by the wind.
He actually lost a service game. After one error, he slapped himself on the thigh. After another, he put his hands on his hips and stared at the spot where his shot went awry.
By the end, Nadal was as good as ever, even hitting a spinning, no-look half-volley as he moved one step closer to the only Grand Slam title he hasn’t won.
The top-seeded Nadal quickly figured out how to handle the wind that has plagued the tournament, got his serve in gear after being broken for the only time in five matches and beat No.8 Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday night in the first all-Spanish quarterfinal in US Open history.
Now Nadal heads to a third consecutive semi-final at Flushing Meadows. He lost in that round to Andy Murray in 2008 and to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro in 2009; he has never been to a US Open final.
“Right now, for me, it’s a very, very nice feeling to be in [the] semi-finals for the third time in a row, for one of the most important tournaments in the world,” Nadal said in an on-court interview. “For me, probably right now, the most important.”
That’s because he is trying to complete a career Grand Slam at age 24 by earning a US Open trophy to put alongside the eight total he owns from the French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open.
Today, Nadal will face 12th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia for a spot in the final.
“For me, being in the semi-finals is amazing,” Nadal said, “but I have to keep going and keep playing better if I really want to have chances to be in the finals.”
In today’s other semi-final, No.2 Roger Federer will face No.3 Novak Djokovic; they won their quarter-finals on Wednesday. Federer owns a record 16 Grand Slam titles, including five at the US Open, and has faced Nadal in at least one final at each of the three other major tournaments.
“For sure, Roger is the favourite,” said Nadal, who has won his last 19 Grand Slam matches, including titles in 2010 at the French Open and Wimbledon.
As was the case for many matches in recent days, the wind was swirling inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. During Nadal’s 11th victory in 11 career matchups against Davis Cup teammate Verdasco, it regularly topped 15 mph, with gusts reaching 25 mph, and the temperature – consistently in the 90s in week 1 – dipped to 65° Farenheit.
“I started very scared, when I was playing with the wind and against the wind, too,” Nadal said. “I was playing too aggressive, because I was scared.”
Neither player seemed pleased by the conditions, and Verdasco looked up at his guest box in the second game after hitting one of his six double-faults.
“It was very difficult even to make the toss of the ball,” Verdasco would say later.
Youzhny’s only previous trip to the semi-finals at any Grand Slam tournament came at the 2006 US Open, and he made it there by upsetting Nadal in the quarter-finals.
“It’s another time, and I’m, like, another player,” Youzhny said. “I cannot say I am [a] better player now, but it’s another time and other opponent, so everything can happen.” (AP)