Nadal charges into U.S. Open semi-finals

Thu Sep 9, 2010 11:33pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal took the next step in his charge after the one grand slam crown missing from his collection by demolishing fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-5 6-3 6-4 on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Open.

Nadal moved within two wins of a ninth major title although his remarkable domination from the service line was finally punctured by Verdasco, who ended his string of winning every service game in the tournament at 62 in the first set.

That was the highlight for Verdasco, a friend, practice partner and Davis Cup team mate of Nadal.

The 24-year-old French and Wimbledon champion never faced another break point in a dazzling all-round display that had Verdasco flinging his racket and talking to himself.

"For now it's a very nice feeling to be in semi-finals for third time in a row in one of the most important tournaments of the world," said Nadal. "For me right now probably the most important."

Nadal danced circles around Verdasco in their first hardcourt meeting since their epic five-hour 14-minute slugfest in the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open won by Nadal.

He raced deep into the corners to rip winners past a flabbergasted Verdasco, sliced angled drop shots that caught his compatriot flat-footed and, in a last flourish, did a pirouette at the net to scoop up a half-volley for another highlight-reel point.

To top it off, the virtuoso display came on a chilly, blustery night on the Arthur Ashe center court.   Continued...

<p>Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to compatriot Fernando Verdasco during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>