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By Chris Oddo | Wednesday September 6, 2017

The youngest player remaining in the U.S. Open men’s singles draw could do very little to slow the growing momentum of one of its most accomplished on Day 10 in New York. Winning more than half of his service points would have been a start but 19-year-old Andrey Rublev couldn’t even do that over the course of the one hour and 36-minute beatdown that came at the hands of Rafael Nadal, who reached his 26th career major semifinal, and sixth in New York, with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory under the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

More: Muguruza Rises to WTA No.1

Rublev faced 18 break points in his 11 service games and only escaped four times with a hold. It was just one of those matches where a not-yet-ripe but promising teenager runs into one of his idols who just so happens to be one of the greatest of all-time and in the midst of a push for a 16th major title.

“He gave me a lesson: 1, 2, and 2,” Rublev told reporters after the match.

Indeed.

Chalk it up as a learning experience for Rublev and an afternoon snack for Nadal, who will next face winner of tonight’s quarterfinal between Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro in Friday’s semifinal.


That last fact is not without significance. Nadal and Federer, as has been well-documented historically and particularly this week, have never met in New York before. On five occasions they have been one match from meeting in New York—twice Nadal has lost and three times Federer has lost at the last hurdle.

If Federer can manage to defeat Del Potro tonight the pair will meet for the 38th time, and 13th at a major.

Nadal has been respectful of the tennis communities' desire to see the two legends lock horns at tennis' largest venue, but he has also stressed that playing Federer, largely considered tennis’s all-time greatest player despite his 14-23 lifetime record against Nadal, is no piece of cake.

"I want to play against the opponent against who I have more chances to win, I'm not stupid, no,” he told Eurosport after today’s victory.

No matter who he faces, Nadal will surely be ready.

The Spaniard is peaking at the right time in New York. He has won his last nine sets without dropping more than four games, and he improved his record to 54-9 on the season, and 51-10 lifetime at the U.S. Open.


Though he has lost all three of his matches to Federer in 2017, and now owns a 9-10 lifetime record against the Swiss on hardcourts, if he faces him he’ll enter the match playing some of the best hardcourt tennis that we’ve seen from him in years.

Nadal has not won a title on hardcourt in over three years, but his 27-7 record on the surface in 2017 is the best that he has produced since 2013 when he went 36-4 on hardcourt and won his second U.S. Open title.

Two steps from a third U.S. Open title, who Nadal faces in the semifinals might be insignificant compared to how well he can rise to the challenge and keep elevating his tennis.

 

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