x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Nadal, Gasquet and Azarenka enter US Open tennis semi-finals

World No 2 beats fellow Spaniard Robredo in quarter-finals shortly after Frenchman Gasquet overcomes Ferrer.

Rafael Nadal needed only an hour and 40 minutes to beat Tommy Robredo in the US Open quarter-finals. Darron Cummings / AP Photo
Rafael Nadal needed only an hour and 40 minutes to beat Tommy Robredo in the US Open quarter-finals. Darron Cummings / AP Photo

NEW YORK // Rafael Nadal steamrolled compatriot Tommy Robredo 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 to move into the semi-finals of the US Open at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday.

The second-seeded Spaniard needed just an hour and 40 minutes to get the job done on Arthur Ashe Stadium against Robredo, who had upset Swiss master Roger Federer in the fourth round.

However, he was no match for Nadal, receiving an ironic cheer when he finally won a game at 0-2 in the second set.

Nadal will play Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Robredo won the first point with an unreturnable serve but that was about as good as it got for the 31 year old, who was constantly on the back foot as Nadal dictated play with heavy forehands and only 15 unforced errors for the match.

Nadal has yet to lose his serve in the tournament and did not face a break point against Robredo.

Robredo showed glimpses of form early in the third set but when Nadal broke in the fifth game the writing was on the wall.

Nadal broke serve for the seventh time before sealing the lopsided affair when Robredo sent a forehand long.

"I think I played my best match in the US Open this year," Nadal said. "Playing a little bit better every day is great. I am in the semi-finals and very happy to be here."

Earlier on Wednesday, Gasquet, who has a 0-10 record against Nadal, had recalled beating the Spaniard when they were 13 year olds.

"I think I lost 6-4 in the third," confirmed Nadal.

"It was one of the first tournaments for me to play internationally, under 14. Richard was unbelievable. He's a nice guy and a good friend. We started together as kids and it's great to see him in the semi-finals in the U.S. Open."

Gasquet's second straight five-setter

Eighth-seeded Gasquet advanced to the semi-finals stage for the first time since the 2007 Wimbledon championships with a thrilling 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3 victory in a slugfest against David Ferrer.

It was the second successive five-setter for the 27 year old, who clinched the concluding set of a marathon fourth-round match against big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic 7-5.

Gasquet had lost eight of nine previous matches against Ferrer.

Playing in just the second grand slam quarter-final of his career, the Frenchman used his trademark one-handed backhand to near perfection as he closed out Ferrer in three hours and 23 minutes.

Gasquet broke the Spaniard, a model of consistency with trips to the quarters or better in the last eight slams, on a double fault at break point to seize a 4-2 lead in the fifth set.

He ended the match with a bristling forehand for his 52nd winner.

"He had a bad game at 3-2 for me. I was a little nervous about getting into the semis at the U.S. Open, but I did it. Was a big win for me," he said.

Azarenka to face Pennetta

Victoria Azarenka struck a blow for the younger generation by beating Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3 to join a trio of 31 year olds in the women's semi-finals.

The 24-year-old Belarusian, the second seed and runner-up last year, will play unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta, while defending champion Serena Williams meets Li Na of China in Friday's semi-finals.

Pennetta reached her first grand slam semi-final on Wednesday by beating longtime friend and Fed Cup team mate Roberta Vinci, the 10th-seeded 30 year old, 6-4, 6-1.

"I'm a baby, what can I say?" Azarenka said courtside about joining the old guard in last four. "It's amazing to see such great players in the semi-finals.

Pennetta, ranked 83rd as she battles back from surgery on an injured right wrist that kept her out of last year's tournament, said times had changed for veteran players on the women's side.

"It's amazing to see athletes doing so well, their careers longer so fans and themselves can enjoy their careers much better. Everybody looks much fitter, really taking care of their body and taking the sport to the next level."

"I think we just keep playing. Before the career of the woman was shorter, they retired early.

"It's good to stay physical, in a good way, and play this good tennis at this age. I'm proud of me now."

Fight between friends

The good-natured match between friends who have competed against one another since they were 10 turned into a rout by the second set, which Pennetta raced through in 24 minutes against an error-prone Vinci.

"It was, of course, a special day for us," said Vinci, who is part of the world number one ranked women's doubles team with fellow Italian Sara Errani, and still busy defending their US Open double title.

"This time she won, but I think that I'm happy, too, about this tournament."

Pennetta continued a strong history of success at Flushing Meadows.

After advancing to the quarters in 2008, 2009 and 2011, Pennetta has not dropped a set in her march to the semi-finals, dropping just 25 games in her five victories.

"I don't know. I just enjoy to play here," she said.

Their quarter of their draw was something of a festival for the Italians.

In playing Pennetta, Vinci was facing her third successive compatriot, having beaten unseeded Camila Giorgi and Karin Knapp in previous rounds.

Pennetta eliminated fourth seed Errani in the second round.

This marked the sixth year Italy has had a player in the quarter-finals, and second year in a row that two Italians had reached the quarters.

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