Nadal advances to semis at U.S. Open
NEW YORK - After one early miss, Rafael Nadal slapped himself in the right thigh. After another, he put his hands on his hips and stared at the spot where his shot went awry. It did not take long for Nadal to put a slightly slow start behind him and move one step closer to the only Grand Slam title he hasn't won. Top-seeded Nadal figured out how to handle the wind that's plagued the tournament, got his serve in gear after being broken for the only time in five matches, and beat No. 8 Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 Thursday night in the first all-Spanish quarterfinal in U.S. Open history. Nadal's streak of 62 consecutive holds of serve ended in Thursday's third game, when he put a forehand in the net, allowing Verdasco to break him at love to go ahead 2-1. Nadal wouldn't face another break point the rest of the match, though, and he won the last 13 points he served in the second set.In the very early going, Verdasco played the brand of point-extending, opponent-dispiriting defense that Nadal is known for. But Nadal broke back to get to 4-all, thanks to Verdasco's two double-faults in a row, and suddenly was seeming more and more comfortable. Nadal broke Verdasco for a second time in the last game of the opening set thanks to a volley winner at the end of a 20-stroke exchange. By match's end, Nadal was pulling out all the tricks, even hitting one half-volley while spinning around, putting the racket on the ball with his back to the net - sort of like a no-look pass in basketball. And now Nadal is headed to a third consecutive semifinal at Flushing Meadows. Nadal never has reached a final in New York. Saturday, Nadal will face 12th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia for a spot in the final. Youzhny beat No. 25 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in four hours Thursday. No. 2 Roger Federer will face No. 3 Novak Djokovic in Saturday's other semifinal.