Half of the dream semifinal at the 2017 U.S. Open is set.
Rafael Nadal cruised his way to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinal Wednesday to advance to his first U.S. Open semifinal since 2013. Nadal, who won his record 10th French Open earlier this year as part of a resurgent 2017, will face the winner of Wednesday's Roger Federer-Juan Martin del Potro match.
If Federer wins, he and Nadal will face off for the fourth time this year. Federer has won each of the previous three matches, including a five-set thriller at January's Australian Open.
Nadal made light work of Rublev, a 19-year-old Russian who grew up idolizing the Spaniard. From the outset, it was clear Rublev was not used to this stage. He committed 43 unforced errors to Nadal's 20 and double faulted seven times.
There was a clear difference between his form Wednesday and that of the first four rounds, in which he pulled off upsets over Grigor Dimotrov and David Goffin with relative ease.
Nadal, meanwhile, looked at peak form for the second consecutive match. After dropping first sets in his second- and third-round matches, Nadal has dropped just three games total in his opening sets the last two rounds.
The No. 1 seed was a little more mistake prone than in his fourth-round win over Alexandr Dolgopolov but was particularly dominant on returns. With Rublev struggling to accurately place his first serves, Nadal dominated on second-return points and finished the match winning 45 of his opponent's 82 serve points.
For most of the match, it looked like he was barely breaking a sweat in the largely expected romp.
Nadal-Rublev, like Federer-del Potro tonight, is viewed as something of an appetizer to the U.S. Open main course. Federer and Nadal looked to be at the twilight of their careers coming into 2017. Federer hadn't won a major since 2012. Nadal hadn't hoisted a trophy since the 2014 French Open.
With Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic looking strong and a group of emerging young players rising through the ranks, Nadal and Federer's Australian Open clash felt more like a one-last-ride novelty than anything.
It's been anything but. Nadal came back with a win at the French, and Federer took home Wimbledon. The winner of their matchup Friday will be a heavy favorite against the winner of the Pablo Carreno Busta-Kevin Anderson semifinal.
“I look for, again, a magical evening,” Nadal said on ESPN (h/t . “It’s something a little bit strange that we never played here, no? I think it will be much more special if that can happen in a final, but it’s not possible this year. We’re going to try to come back and make that happen.”
Even if this winds up being the last hurrah for either player at a U.S. Open, 2017 has been a fun and unexpected ride for both.