Cracking crisp combinations that depleted the legs of the limping American, the defending U.S. Open champion delivered a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 dress down to register his 12th consecutive Flushing Meadows win in a match devoid of drama. The victory sends Nadal into Saturday’s semifinals against fourth-seeded Andy Murray, marking the second time in the last three majors the world’s top four men advanced to the final four. It's the 10-time Grand Slam champion’s 16th semifinal in his last 22 major appearances.
It’s been an eventful American summer for Nadal, who won just two matches during the U.S. Open Series, endured burned fingertips in a bout with a hot plate in Cincinnati, and slid off his seat suffering crippling cramps in his post-match press conference at the Open. But put him between the lines and Nadal can compartmentalize off-court challenges, narrow his eyes and distill the world to his solitary relationship with the ball.
The second-seeded Spaniard broke twice in succession to take a commanding 4-0 lead 18 minutes into the match. Nadal then navigated his way out of a 0-30 hole for a 5-1 lead. Striking shots with such sharpness and tremendous topspin that caused the ball to trampoline off the surface, Nadal looked like a man who was confident enough to strike a quarter placed on the court.
It was a painful pummeling for the proud 2003 champion to absorb. Hobbled by a strained right quadriceps he apparently sustained in his four-set victory over David Ferrer, Roddick had no legs and little hope today. When Nadal fired a forehand down the line, a lunging Roddick waved at the ball, then leaned on his blue Babolat racquet as if it were a cane keeping him upright.
The dreary drizzle that disrupted play for two days finally stopped, but a ruthless Rafa made Roddick look like a man made of mist, as perspiration poured from the brim of his baseball cap and plopped on the court, while his second serve tripped off top of the tape and sailed long to hand Nadal a 4-1 second set lead. Nadal spun a forehand winner down the line—racking up his 12th straight point—for a 5-1 advantage. Nadal won 16 of the final 17 points in the second set to seize a two-set stronghold.
Even if completely healthy, Roddick would have faced an enormous competitive quandary as Nadal’s best shot, his hellacious topspin forehand, dive bombs directly into Roddick’s weaker backhand wing. When Roddick tried to lean to his left to cover that shot, Nadal repeatedly ripped his forehand down the line. The muscular Mallorcan finished with 22 forehand winners compared to none for Roddick.
Hooking another forehand winner down the line to hold for 5-2, Nadal closed the one hour, 53-minute match to extend America’s male major title drought to 32 Grand Slams and set up a showdown with Murray, who played three hours and 24 minutes against John Isner.
"I have to play aggressive and play my best tennis to have a great chance," said Nadal, who has won 12 of 16 meetings with Murray, including semifinal wins at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.