Spain’s Fernando Verdasco was playing two opponents at the US Open last night: his fellow countryman, Rafael Nadal, and the wind.
“My game plan was, try to push him all I can with my serve,” says Verdasco, who double faulted six times and only won 61 percent of his first serve points. “It was very difficult to even make the toss with my ball.”
Verdasco found himself on the defensive, spraying balls wide or dumping them into the net. He made 41 unforced errors.
“When I had these balls, the ball was moving all the time, and it was impossible to play the game,” a gloomy Verdasco explained to the media after the match.
Nadal was broken once, for the first time in the entire tournament. The victory puts him in his third consecutive semi-final at the Open.
“I think I played every day better,” Nadal said, “and today, for the conditions, I think I played a very good match.”
The top seed played a clean and consistent game, with 16 unforced winners and 18 winners. He took some pace off of his serve, and won 84 percent of his first serve points. He said mental fatigue after a string of victories in 2008 (including Wimbledon and a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics) and an abdominal tear in 2009 prevented him from getting to the finals then. But this year, Nadal says he’s feeling fine.
“I know how important the US Open is to me right now,” he said. “I have to arrive at the tournament fresh if I am going to have a very good result.”
Nadal’s fans are hoping that result will be a championship here, his first. If he wins, he would become the seventh man in tennis history to have won all four tennis majors in his career, joining his rival, Roger Federer, in that prestigious category. Nadal takes on Russia’s Mikhail Youzhney in the semi-finals this Saturday.