NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal reached his first U.S. Open final, earning the chance to complete a career grand slam of major tennis titles, by routing Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-3 6-4 on Saturday.
After blasting a service winner to end the match with a love game, the 24-year-old Spaniard leapt up and punched the air.
“To me it’s a dream. I’m going to play for the first time in the final here in the biggest center court in the world,” Nadal told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
“I have tried my best for a lot of years. So now after a lot of work I am here and I’m happy for that.”
The top seed will face third-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who upset five-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland in five sets, 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5.
Nadal, armed with a stronger serve and more precise volleys since falling in the semi-finals of the last two U.S. Opens, will try to add the U.S. crown to his grand slam haul of five French Opens, two Wimbledons and an Australian Open title.
Youzhny entered the match trailing Nadal 7-4 in their head-to-head series, but was 1-0 against him at the U.S. Open, having beaten him in four sets in the 2006 quarter-finals, and 4-3 against him on hard courts.
The world number one was not to be denied on a sunny day at the National Tennis Center, dominating the 12th-seeded Youzhny in all facets by belting 23 winners and committing just 19 unforced errors.
Nadal sailed through the first set facing just one break point and allowed only three points against serve in the second despite a moment of concern.
During the changeover at 3-2 he had his left foot retaped and a bandage placed to ease discomfort from a blister.
The left-hander showed no sign of ill effects and broke Youzhny in the eighth game before serving out the set.
The 28-year-old Russian brought the third set level on serve in the eighth game with an overhead smash that accounted for only the second service game lost by Nadal in the tournament.
Nadal, however, wasted no time regaining the advantage, seizing the opportunity after a bad backhand volley miss by Youzhny to blast an irretrievable forehand into the corner to go ahead 5-4 and set up his closing service game.
“Maybe he was a little bit more tired than me, he played longer matches than me, maybe that’s why,” said Nadal, who swept into the final without the loss of a set.
Said Youzhny, who reached the semi-finals with a five-set win over Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka after a pair of four-set battles: “I cannot say I’m really tired, but I was not fast enough today.
“My decision was not really fast. I was moving well, but my head was one step back of my hand and my legs.”
Now Nadal will set his sights on becoming the seventh player to achieve a career grand slam, and the first since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns in the same year.
Editing by Frank Pingue