Roger Federer took one step closer to a 17th career Grand Slam title last night gaining revenge on Robin Soderling with a convincing 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win in the US Open quarterfinals.
Despite the windy conditions, Federer served incredibly well cracking 18 aces while dropping just eight points on his first offering.
“The wind doesn’t affect my concentration when I go up to serve,” said Federer. “I think I’m also very good at hitting a good serve even when the ball toss is not in the right location. I can still serve to all the different corners with either kick, slice or flat.”
Federer was largely untroubled by Soderling for most of the match, though the Swede did pull ahead and serve for the third before dropping the final three games.
Soderling, who stunned Federer at the French Open en route to his second Roland Garros finale, also squandered multiple break chances in the first and really never got back into the match after that point.
“I think the serve was today the biggest key, because obviously he’s very famous for serving extremely accurate, extremely hard, over a long period of time,” the 5-time champ Federer said. “That’s what makes him so hard to beat really. That wasn’t the case today. He struggled to get the pace, the accuracy going, until midway through the third set when I think he started to hit it a bit better. Then it was almost too late, really.”
In the earlier semifinal, Novak Djokovic braved the gusty wind and ran Gael Monfils ragged in an ugly 7-6(2), 6-1, 6-2 victory. Watching the match one had wonder just what the Frenchman was thinking and what his gameplan was – hope Novak retires from laughter at Gael’s tactics? At times I felt sorry for his coach, Roger Rasheed, who saw his protégé attempt some of the worst shots I’ve ever seen in a big stage match.
“That windy, never,” said Monfils of the conditions. “Wind like this for me is very tough. I have a big swing, and as you can see, my adjustment is not that good sometime.
“The talent for play in the wind, I don’t have like yet,” he said.
Djokovic finished breaking Monfils seven times and the win gives the Serb 14 straight sets ahead of another Federer clash on Saturday.
“It’s a very similar situation likes last year,” Novak said after reaching his fourth straight US Open semifinal. “Soderling plays Federer in the quarters, and I am playing the winner. I lost to Federer the last three years that we played here. But every year I tried to win. I tried to go out on the court with positive attitude. He’s a great champion, of course great player. But you never know what’s gonna happen. I don’t want to think about those losses in the last three years, which were really, really close in all those matches.”
With one US Open semifinal set, we now decide who’ll be on the other side today.
First up are the surprising entries Mikhail Youzhny and Stan Wawrinka. Youzhny has been to the semifinals here before – he beat Rafael Nadal a few years ago on his journey to the semifinals – while Wawrinka is appearing in his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Youzhny has also beaten the Swiss in both career meetings on hardcourt, including one this year. Couple that with Wawrinka’s fatigue issue after consecutive marathon matches and I like the Russian in this one.
In the evening, it’s the big Spanish showdown between Nadal and Fernando Verdasco. Like the afternoon quarter, fitness and fatigue may also come into play in this one. Verdasco battled nearly four-and-half hours in an exhausting win Tuesday night. And for the effort he now has to play a pristine and in-form Nadal who is serving at the best clip of his life – he’s the only guy yet to lose serve!
Head-to-head, it’s been all Nadal in this series 10-0. Verdasco did stretch Rafa to five sets in that Australian Open epic last year, but he hasn’t won a set off the World No. 1 since in three meetings.
“He’s a very complete player,” Nadal said of Fernando. “He has all the shots and he’s playing very well, no? Much better than he did last months, so gonna be very difficult match. I saw him play today, and I saw him play against Nalbandian the other day. He’s playing very good tennis, so gonna be a very interesting match. I have to play aggressive, to play well. It not gonna be impossible, I think.”
So I like Nadal tonight but Verdasco could get a set and really push Rafa. And for me that could be important. As I said at the start of this event, one of the biggest obstacles Nadal faces in winning the US Open is the scheduling, and now it’s close to the worst case (no Nalbandian, no Murray).
To capture this title Nadal will have to do something he’s never done before in his career: win three best-of-five set matches in four days on a hardcourt against stiff competition.
With Andy Murray out of the equation things are that much more favorable for Rafa, but keep in mind that Youzhny did beat Nadal a few years ago at the Open. Again, the key will be how much energy he uses/saves tonight (and how late he finishes) and also on Saturday before the final should Rafa even make it.
Having the last night match also doesn’t help as the Saturday and Sunday matches will be played in the day. Federer, who played last night, at least has an extra day to practice in the daytime.
Can Nadal do it? We’ll see. The journey really begins tonight.
THURSDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium
Not Before:2:00 PM
Stanislas Wawrinka(SUI) vs. Mikhail Youzhny(RUS)
Not Before:8:00 PM
Rafael Nadal(ESP) vs. Fernando Verdasco(ESP)
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