Rafael Nadal's Easy Path to US Open Finals Will Lead to Second Tournament Win
All signs point to a second U.S. Open title for Rafael Nadal after the round of 16 unfolded Monday night.
Things really couldn't have gone better for the 2010 tournament champion after his side of the men’s draw moved to the quarterfinals. Roger Federer's upset loss to Tommy Robredo cleared the path for Nadal's relatively easy return to the U.S. Open finals.
With that favorable remaining draw, he'll have enough left in the tank to give either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic—the presumed winners of the other half—a match to remember.
Next up is Robredo, though. While you can't count out Robredo (as you likely did against Federer), Nadal is no declining superstar. The King of Clay improved to 19-0 on hard courts this summer and has dropped just one set in New York heading into their quarterfinal duel. Nadal hasn't had much trouble with his countryman in the past—having won all six of their previous meetings, the last of which came in 2009.
Assuming he makes short work of Robredo—like Federer should have—who’s next? The winner of fourth seed David Ferrer and eighth seed Richard Gasquet will await Rafa in the semis.
Ferrer and Nadal go way back. Despite holding a 2-2 record against Nadal on hard courts, Ferrer has only been able to find success two other times in 20 other career meetings. His last win came in the quarterfinals at the 2011 Australian Open.
Then there’s Gasquet. He’s had much, much less success against the Spaniard over the years. In 10 career meetings, four on hard courts, Gasquet has won just three sets—although two of those came on hard surfaces.
One thing is clear, though: Nadal is playing better than he ever has in his career on the surface. He’s playing farther up on the baseline and serving fearlessly and with more power than we've seen from him in quite some time, if ever. That’s helping him completely control serve points, and he’s breaking his opponents frequently due to his more aggressive approach.
How far will Nadal go in the 2013 U.S. Open?
In fact, Nadal hasn't been broken on his serve once at Flushing Meadows. No other remaining contender can boast that impressive feat.
If he easily rolls through the next two rounds, as we expect based on his current level of play, he could have a big advantage heading into the tournament final. Both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will likely be reeling from hard-fought semifinals duels.
Historically, Nadal has an edge over both Djokovic (21-15) and Murray (13-5) in the win-loss ratio. However, both of those great competitors have proved able to rise to the occasion on big stages against him in the past.
But Rafa is locked in and playing precisely right now, and you don't want him to have even the slightest leg up on you competitively. Little things can end up being difference-makers—especially if the final turns into a marathon battle for the trophy.
*All head-to-head information was obtained from ATPWorldTour.com
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