Rafael Nadal continued his magnificent 2013 season by beating No. 8 Richard Gasquet in the second 2013 U.S. Open men's semifinal on Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2.
The second-seeded Nadal has nine singles titles this year and will play No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in the final at Flushing Meadows on Monday. ESPN Stats & Info noted that it marks the sixth Grand Slam final meeting between the two superstars:
As for the semifinal, it was the first time Gasquet had ever made a U.S. Open semifinal, and although the Frenchman put up a good fight, the outcome was never in serious doubt.
One bragging right Gasquet has as a silver lining is that he was the first player in the entire tournament to break Nadal's serve, which occurred in the second set to level it at two games apiece. Nadal hadn't been broken in 88 previous service games, per BBC Sport's Mike Henson and Aimee Lewis.
With Nadal on serve and down 4-3, Gasquet put Nadal in a 15-40 hole to earn two break opportunities. As the Spaniard frequently has, though, he fought off the adversity and held; he then dismantled Gasquet in the tiebreaker 7-1.
Gasquet started the tiebreaker with a double fault, his first of the match, which was a sign of things to come. Nadal won a 26-shot rally, putting him up 4-1 in what turned out to be a critical moment that Gasquet never fully recovered from:
Nadal stepped up his play a notch and fought off a break point in the opening service game of the third set; he then broke Gasquet in the next game. From there, it was cruise control for the 12-time Grand Slam champion.
Whenever Gasquet gave any ground, Nadal was there to capitalize, converting on all four of his break points, while his counterpart took advantage of only one out of six such opportunities.
Uneven tennis from Nadal and exceptional baseline movement from Gasquet were essentially what made the first two sets so tight, but the superior Nadal played an almost peerless set to close out the match.
Nadal hit 11 winners to just two unforced errors in the final set, hit 74 percent of his first serves in and lost just five total points on serve. He also won 48 percent of return points in the set.
CBS' telecast noted that the final will be the 37th overall meeting between Nadal and Djokovic; Nadal leads the all-time series 21-15.
The Serbian had a bit of a tougher road to the final, beating No. 9-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in an epic five-set match earlier in the day. Since he'll have an entire day to rest, it should be a stellar showdown to cap the Grand Slam tennis season.
Note: Match statistics are courtesy of USOpen.org.