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US OPEN TENNIS

Gasquet blocks Nadal’s route to perfect 2013 hard court season

World number nine in good form as he attempts to turn around loss record

Richard Gasquet returns to David Ferrer during their US Open quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Richard Gasquet returns to David Ferrer during their US Open quarterfinal on Wednesday.EDUARDO MUNOZ (REUTERS)

A day after Carla Suárez and Marcel Granollers crashed out of the US Open to top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, winning just three games between them, Tommy Robredo attempted to bridge the chasm between the top four in the men’s game and the rest of the ATP Tour. In the fourth round 19th seed Robredo, a veteran on the circuit at 31, finally beat Roger Federer at the 11th time of trying and then carried a similarly one-sided record into his quarterfinal meeting with Rafa Nadal.

But there was to be no repeat of Robredo’s surprise win over the Swiss. Nadal, who said he felt he played the first set “at 100 percent” for the first time since returning from injury, poured insult upon his compatriot by winning the opener in 22 minutes for the loss of just five points. It took Robredo until game nine to get on the board but Nadal’s relentless onslaught never let up, handing the Mallorcan a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 victory and earning him a place in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows for the fifth time. “I started a little bit tight and he was up very quick. Then there was nothing else to do. He was too good,” said Robredo after the match.

The world number two’s numbers make for daunting reading, especially for semifinal opponent Richard Gasquet. His victory over Robredo was Nadal’s 20th in 20 hard court matches this season. He has yet to drop serve at the US Open and has broken his opponents 29 times in total across five matches. The French Open champion’s forehand has ripped 97 winners in Queens this year, more than any other player in the tournament. And Gasquet has never beaten Nadal. Well, he has once — at a junior tournament in Tarbes at the age of 13, but since then Nadal has a perfect 10-0 record against his semifinal opponent. Gasquet had not enjoyed much success against David Ferrer either; in their last five meetings the Frenchman failed to win a set but he knocked him out in five on Wednesday night.

“My backhand was working very well. I think it was the key. When I’m serving great and I have this backhand, I think I can play well,” said Gasquet.

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