Youzhny too nice to play spoiler at U.S. Open

Mikhail Youzhny of Russia rests during a break in his match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 11, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK, Sept 11 - Mikhail Youzhny had promised to be the “bad” guy in his U.S. Open semi-final and stand in the way of a possible final between the world’s top two players, but in the end his bid to play the spoiler lacked menace.

Heading into his match with Rafa Nadal, the number 12 seed said he was “ready to be the bad person” and deny any chance of the Spaniard advancing to a possible finals match against world number two Roger Federer.

In just his second last-four encounter in a grand slam, Youzhny fell 6-2 6-3 6-4 to Nadal and later said with a smile: “You have to be nice.”

Despite failing to reach a grand slam final in 38 attempts, Youzhny said he was confident of snapping that streak in 2011 having not played his best tennis in New York.

“This year I’m really glad because I didn’t really show my best tennis, because I did not serve well the whole tournament, and yet I was still in the semi-final,” he said.

“I didn’t show my best tennis and I am in the semi-final - this is good. So, maybe if I can show my really best tennis in grand slams, maybe I can do something more.”

Wearing a black ribbon on his T-shirt sleeve to recognize the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, Youzhny received rapturous applause through the match, most notably when he broke Nadal’s serve in the eighth game of the third set.

It was the first time Youzhny broke Nadal’s serve, but the Spaniard immediately broke back before serving out the match for his eighth win in 12 meetings against the Russian.

“I felt like I really only played one good game at 4-3 in the third set and then at four-all the crowd were going yeah for Youzhny,” said the Russian, who will climb back into the world’s top ten following his impressive U.S. Open run. “But then I slowed down after this game.”