Rafael Nadal defeats Andrey Rublev in US Open 2017

Rafael Nadal can now only sit back and wait to see if he will face Roger Federer in the US Open 2017 semi-final after dispatching Andrey Rublev in straight sets. Federer and Nadal have never met at the US Open and even before either had reached the semi-final, tickets for the proposed match were changing hands for nearly £10,000 a piece. And Nadal never gave fans desperate for the pair to play at Flushing Meadows for the very first time a scare, cruising through the first two sets in under an hour before completing a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory without breaking sweat. Rublev could hardly have been a bigger underdog ahead of the clash – he had never even won more than won match at the same Grand Slam before his run to the quarter-finals.

But having knocked out Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin, albeit an injury-hampered one, he should have been full of confidence coming into the last eight. However, the size of the stadium and the enormity of the task facing him, taking on the world No 1 for the first time in his career, seemed to leave him devoid of the bravado that had got him onto that stage. Rublev was broken in his first service game, battering a couple of powerful forehands long but finding his range in game three to break back. Game on – or so it briefly appeared. The teenager seemed to be flailing at the ball, his talent occasionally shining through but more often Nadal’s class was untroubled.

It took the world No 1 just 24 minutes to take the first set, which he has twice dropped at the US Open this year, and before the match had reached the hour mark, Nadal had doubled his advantage. There was some optimism for Rublev as he managed two games but the air was instantly sucked out of the stadium by Nadal’s dominance, winning six straight points at the beginning of the third set to take yet another break. Had a succession of brutal forehands in that first game won Rublev the point, it might have been a different story mentally. But Nadal’s relentless defence and seemingly effortless movement kept him in the point and left Rublev wondering what he had to do to win a point, never mind a game or even a set. Rublev even saved six break points in a gruelling fifth game of the third set – but the youngster looked like he had played for four hours while Nadal about four minutes and the Spaniard broke again at the seventh attempt.

A few minutes later, he served for the match and Rublev ensured he took the last opportunity to add three more to his unforced error count – and it was a netted backhand that handed Nadal the win.

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