Rafael Nadal upheld his end of the bargain for a mouth-watering U.S. Open semifinal against Roger Federer by dismantling an overwhelmed Andrey Rublev in Wednesday’s quarterfinal match.
Teenager Rublev had already upset Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin to reach this stage, but top-rankedl Nadal proved a step much too far on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nadal, seeking a third title in New York, needed just one hour and 36 minutes to seal a dominant 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory, as Rublev — who recorded 43 unforced errors — wilted against a player he described as one of his idols.
The French Open champion, who reclaimed the top ranking last month, played his part in Rublev’s misery with a trademark display of power, precision and aggression.
Remarkably, victory means that Nadal could now face old foe Federer, his conqueror in the Australian Open final this year, for the first time at the U.S. Open – if the Swiss maestro can get past Juan Martin del Potro.
In @RafaelNadal’s 1st ever #USOpen appearance, he faced off against Andrey Rublev’s current coach, Fernando Vicente in R1! pic.twitter.com/jPhqhwlJX5
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 6, 2017
Rublev was shaky from the first game and double faulted twice en route to gifting Nadal — who had won his 50th U.S. Open match in the previous round — a first break.
The Spaniard briefly wobbled himself by handing that back, but in no time Nadal had found his range and one particularly whizzing backhand delighted the American fans and brought up the chance to break for the third time in the set, which he duly did.
Having played the first set like the proverbial deer in the headlights, Rublev showed slightly more mettle early in the second and saved break point in game four.
But the obvious nerves quickly reared their ugly head once more as a double fault gifted Nadal a 3-2 lead and the Russian was visibly frustrated at the changeover.
After saving a couple of break points himself, Nadal broke again and quickly served out to take a two-set lead.
Rublev’s resistance had by this point completely evaporated and a double fault at the start of the third set, followed by dropping serve again in a lengthy game five saw Nadal — whose first ever U.S. Open appearance came against Rublev’s coach Fernando Vicente — coast into the last four.
Nadal  bt Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-2
Nadal – 21/20
Rublev – 18/43
Nadal – 4/3
Rublev – 1/7
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/18
Rublev – 1/4
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 68
Rublev – 62
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 84/55
Rublev – 55/29
Nadal – 92
Rublev – 53