U.S. Open: Nadal d. Robredo
NEW YORK—Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo are friends, right? Countrymen, Davis Cup teammates, former doubles partners? You could be forgiven for wondering after seeing the way Nadal treated his fellow Spaniard tonight in Ashe Stadium.
Signs of a beatdown were there early. Rafa is always focused for the warm-up, but this time he looked...even more focused. He’s not always a fast starter; it took him a set and a half to loosen up in his last match, against Philipp Kohlschreiber. But there were no delays tonight, no feeling-out period, no gradual escalation of pace and intensity. Nadal was hitting and moving at top speed from the opening point, and with precision. He broke Robredo to begin, held at love, and lost just five points in a 22-minute, 6-0 first set. He had no trouble running around Robredo’s loopy topspin strokes and taking control with his forehand. He didn’t need to hit close to the lines for winners.
Things couldn’t get worse for Robredo after that, though it’s hard to say they actually got better. He finally held serve, to cheers of pity from a crowd that appeared cowed by Rafa’s onslaught. You can understand their disappointment; two days ago they thought they would be seeing Nadal play Roger Federer. But they had to make do with Robredo, who was unable to muster a single break point in the match; Nadal is still unbroken at the Open this year. Robredo hung around long enough—100 minutes, to be exact—to give the fans a few rallies to cheer, but the Fedal spoiler exited as a sacrificial lamb, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2.
Toni Nadal was asked during the match whether his nephew is “easy to coach." He said that, on nights like this, he most definitely is. No kidding; no wonder Toni was smiling. There were no lulls or hiccups from Rafa; he finished with 28 winners and 15 errors, used his wide serve well, and won 82 points to Robredo’s 43. Even when a let-up or letdown seemed possible in the third set, none arrived. Nadal took Robredo’s last, best desperation shots and smacked them back for winners.
The Big 4 know how to peak at the right times, and from Nadal’s game face in warm-up to his all-business final-set clampdown, this was second-week Grand Slam tennis, par excellence. He moves on, sharply, to face Richard Gasquet in the semifinals. It’s going to take someone’s best effort to keep Rafa from his second U.S. Open title.
IBM Stat of the Match: Zero: The number of break points Rafa faced in this match—and the number of times he's been broken this tournament.
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