Team mate poses unusual problems for Nadal

Wed Sep 8, 2010 6:14pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Long before the first ball was struck at this year's U.S. Open, most tennis fans were pretty sure a Spanish left-hander would reach the men's semi-finals.

And they were right. The forecasters were vindicated even before the quarter-finals were played, but it may not be the man everyone was thinking of since two Spanish lefthanders have been drawn to face each other.

Rafa Nadal, the world number one, is through and playing some of the best tennis of his life but faces an opponent that could be the closest thing to a mirror image of himself in Fernando Verdasco, the eighth seed.

The pair are great friends who teamed up to help their country win the Davis Cup last year and know each other's games so well that there are no surprises for either of them.

Nadal is the overwhelming favorite to win Thursday night's clash at Arthur Ashe Stadium after succeeding in each of their 10 previous clashes but is no sure thing if their last meeting on a hardcourt is any guide.

That was in the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year, which Nadal won in a five-set struggle that lasted over five hours before going on to capture the title.

"He has all the shots and he's playing very well," Nadal said. "It's gonna be a very interesting match. I have to play aggressive to play well."

Nadal has never won the U.S. Open but looks to have his best chance this year. The top seed is in great form, winning his first four matches without dropping a single service game.   Continued...

<p>Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates defeating compatriot Feliciano Lopez during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York September 7, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>