Nadal reaches third straight Open semifinal
The United States Open semifinals have been a New York stop sign for Rafael Nadal until now, a signal he has been too weary or too harried to ignore.
He is back in the same spot for the third straight year at Flushing Meadows, but it is difficult to imagine him stopping there this time after watching him blunt the power and well-founded enthusiasm of his Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night.
The last time Verdasco faced Nadal on a hard court was also in a Grand Slam event, and Verdasco made his fellow left-hander work for five sets and more than five hours before Nadal prevailed in a classic semifinal at the 2009 Australian Open.
On Thursday, on another summer night in a different hemisphere, the eighth-seeded Verdasco produced some of the same flourishes — huge forehands that had the crowd gasping with surprise, athletic lunges to the corners and wicked serves wide to Nadal’s forehand in the ad court.
But this quarterfinal was an entertaining sprint instead of an engrossing marathon as Nadal — in blustery, deeply challenging conditions — produced perhaps the finest and most suffocating performance of all his U.S. Open matches.