x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Nadal's march continues

The Spaniard drops his first set but stays on track to match Laver's feat of winning four consecutive majors.

Much is at stake for Rafael Nadal as he looks to win his first US Open title this weekend.
Much is at stake for Rafael Nadal as he looks to win his first US Open title this weekend.

Nobody has held all four of tennis' major titles at the same time since the magnificent Rod Laver achieved the second of his "calendar clean sweeps" in 1969. Even Roger Federer, who had ruled the modern game imperiously until the start of this year, could not manage it.

Rafael Nadal is the latest to challenge for the coveted honour. The Spaniard, who has overtaken Federer at the top of the world rankings, is three matches away from winning his third successive grand slam which would give him enormous incentive to win his first Australian Open in January. Nadal, is also the new Olympic champion - widely regarded as a fifth major that was not on offer in Laver's day - so a first US Open crown at Flushing Meadows on Sunday would give him a simultaneous hold on four of the best.

To keep the dream alive, though, he will have to play better than he did in overcoming the spirited challenge of the local favourite Sam Querrey 6-2 5-7 7-6 6-3 to reach the last eight at Flushing Meadows for the second time in six visits. The powerful Spaniard was detained for more than three hours before earning the right to meet another American player Mardy Fish who spoiled the 22nd birthday celebrations of France's highly rated Gael Monfils by winning their fourth-round match 7-5 6-2 6-2.

Nadal, who dropped his first set of the tournament, was relieved to come safely through and win the 42nd of his last 43 matches. "It was very difficult, especially after my big mistake in the second set," he said in analysing his 6-2 5-7 7-6 6-3 passage. "I was playing normal, fine - nothing special, but nothing bad. "When you are not playing your best, the important thing is to win. I did that and now I have the chance to play another time."

He will be confident of improving a 4-0 career record against Fish, who had never advanced past the second round at the US Open and whose only other quarter-final in a grand slam came last year at the Australian Open. "I've always wanted to play well here," said Fish, who beat James Blake in straight sets in the third round on Saturday. Blake will be a guest at Fish's wedding to the model Stacey Gardner on Sept 28.

Fish is pleased to have given a decent account of himself at last in his home showpiece event. "I felt like I came here every time and lost in the second round," he said. "I'm glad to be moving on." It is hard to see him moving on any further, however, as Nadal, remains on course for his third successive grand slam final against Roger Federer who was due on court for his fourth round clash against Igor Andreev, of Russia, last night. The winner will play Nikolay Davydenko, the fifth seeded Russian or the unseeded Gilles Muller, of Luxembourg in the quarter-finals. Also in action last night were the eighth-seeded Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic, the world No 3 in their respective matches against Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Robredo. wjohnson@thenational.ae