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Rafael Nadal powers his way into U.S. Open semifinals

Nadal crushes fellow Spaniard Robredo. France's Richard Gasquet upsets fourth-seeded David Ferrer in another quarterfinal.

September 04, 2013|By Diane Pucin
  • Rafael Nadal defeated Tommy Robredo, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2, in a quarterfinal matchup at the U.S. Open on Wednesday.
Rafael Nadal defeated Tommy Robredo, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2, in a quarterfinal matchup… (Andrew Gombert / EPA )

NEW YORK — What Rafael Nadal did to Tommy Robredo was just punishment — pure, powerful punishment.

Nadal, seeded second at the U.S. Open, beat fellow Spaniard Robredo, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2, Wednesday night in a quarterfinal pummeling on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Robredo had upset five-time U.S. Open champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, but against Nadal, Robredo had no room to place shots where Nadal couldn't find them. And pound them back.

"I don't know the way he felt," Robredo said, "but obviously I felt he was doing pretty good out there. There was nothing else to do. He was too good."

Nadal agreed that his form could not have been much better against Robredo, especially in the first set when Robredo only won five points.

"I think I played great the first set," said Nadal, who has won 12 Grand Slam titles.

"I did all the things you expect to do good in the first set. I am very happy with the way I moved myself on court, very happy the way I hit my forehand and my backhand especially. So, in general, it was my best match of the tournament. To be in the semifinals is a very important result for me."

Nadal missed last year's Open because of a knee injury.

His domination was in stark contrast to the other men's quarterfinal match Wednesday.

That one was full of clever tennis played between two men who have never won a Grand Slam tournament and probably never will.

Frenchman Richard Gasquet, seeded eighth, has a whip-like backhand, a nerveless volley and a forehand that creates difficult angles for an opponent.

Spaniard David Ferrer, seeded fourth, with the smoothness of a dancer and the speed of a sprinter, reaches balls most players just watch go past.

So it was only fair the pair played for five sets and were able to show all their skills. In the end it was Gasquet who came away the winner, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, in 3 hours 23 minutes.

Gasquet will meet Nadal in the semifinals after having survived two punishing five-set matches in a row. Facing Nadal's power, Gasquet acknowledged, would be "daunting."

Though he had beaten Gasquet in seven of their eight last meetings, Ferrer, 31, said the experience of winning in the past didn't make a difference Wednesday.

"At the end of the day, I lost a little bit of my focus," said Ferrer, who was a French Open finalist this year and a U.S. Open semifinalist last year. "Next time I will try to be more focused. I can do nothing else."

Gasquet, who has never been further than a semifinal in a Grand Slam event, said the last time he had beaten Nadal, "We were both 13." Then he giggled.

Sometimes, Gasquet said, he watches himself beating Nadal on YouTube. "I can see I am winning against him, but I don't believe it sometimes," he said.

When he turned serious again, Gasquet, 27, said he was glad to have two days off after the back-to-back five-setters.

Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who has won the last two Australian Opens, became a U.S. Open semifinalist with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over unseeded 30-year-old Daniela Hantuchova.

Azarenka, 24, is the only women's semifinalist under 30.

Flavia Pennetta, a 31-year-old from Italy, reached her first Grand Slam semifinal with a 6-4, 6-1 win over countrywoman and good friend Roberta Vinci, seeded 10th.

Pennetta will face Azarenka in her first semifinal Friday. Top-seeded and defending champion Serena Williams, 31, will face China's Li Na, also 31, in the other semifinal.

Pennetta and Vinci, 30, used to be doubles partners and at the beginning it seemed as if neither wanted to hurt the other by hitting good shots.

But finally Pennetta began showing her varied game that includes drop shots and volleys.

"I'm proud of me now," Pennetta said. "I'm 31 and physically I feel good. I'm in my first semifinal in a Grand Slam. There is nothing to say more."

Pennetta didn't arrive in New York with semifinal expectations. "I didn't play my best tennis the last six months," she said. "I've been working every day and I'm starting to feel my forehand, my backhand. Every day is better and better. I'm confident because I'm here and I have nothing to lose."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter: @mepucin

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