ATP Top 20 Rankings

1 Rafael Nadal (Spa) 11225.00pts

2 Novak Djokovic (Ser) 7145.00

3 Roger Federer (Swi) 6735.00

4 Andy Murray (Gbr) 5035.00

5 Robin Soderling (Swe) 4910.00

6 Nikolay Davydenko (Rus) 4150.00

7 Tomas Berdych (Cze) 3780.00

8 Fernando Verdasco (Spa) 3330.00

9 Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) 3295.00

10 David Ferrer (Spa) 3200.00

11 Andy Roddick (USA) 3180.00

12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 2905.00

13 Jurgen Melzer (Aut) 2605.00

14 Marin Cilic (Cro) 2540.00

15 Gael Monfils (Fra) 2250.00

16 Nicolas Almagro (Spa) 2150.00

17 Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) 2120.00

18 Marcos Baghdatis (Cyp) 2030.00

19 Mardy Fish (USA) 1931.00

20 Stanislas Wawrinka (Swi) 1860.00

Championship Sunday Postponed Until Monday

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Rain, rain go away was the theme of the US Open on Sunday as the steady drizzle came down and pre-empted play.

The Women’s Doubles Finals will now take place tomorrow at 3 p.m. It was suspended in the third set with set still on serve. The team of Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova took the first set, 6-2 then the team of Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova rebounded during the second set to win 6-4. Play was suspended when the third set was 5-4 Huber/Petrova hold a 0-15 lead in the 10th game.

Then after that match – and not before 4 p.m. – the Men’s Finals will pit No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal against No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic. Nadal won his match over Mikhail Youzhny yesterday, 6-2 6-3 6-4. But Djokovic had to endure a 5-set classic over Roger Federer, 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5.

With an extra day off, the rain may help Djokovic as he will be able to recover from the Federer showdown. Both Nadal and Djokovic are looking for their first US Open Championship.

The US Open Remembers 9/11

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Although this was Super Saturday at the US Open, it was also the ninth anniversary of September 11th. Even with tennis as the centerpiece in Flushing Meadows, a solemn air hung overhead and the USTA and athletes involved made sure it was remembered.

In the distance, the blue lights of the Twin Towers of Light shined to the stars and the Empire State Building was clad in red, white, and blue.

Ten-time Grammy Award winner Chaka Kahn sung “America The Beautiful” after a moment of silence. The flags in Arthur Ashe Stadium hung at half mast and after their matches Kim Clijsters and Rafael Nadal honored the victims.

“Nine years ago the world changed for everybody, and when I come to New York I think about 9/11,” Clijsters told the crowd after she won the US Open Women’s Title. “It was an honor to play here today and maybe give the people a distraction as well.”

Nadal also made sure he mentioned the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

“I don’t want to forget, it’s a very special day for everybody. I want to express my support for the victims of 9/11 and their families,” World No.1 told the New York crowd after posting a 6-2 6-3 6-4 semi-final win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

“Nine/11 was a big shock for everybody in the world. Everybody remembers where they were at that moment, and I remember what happened that day and where I was.

“It was a terrible shock for me, especially because I was in the top of the twin towers a few months before.

“That’s just the minimum thing that I can say. All the support for the victims and for the families for sure is always in my mind.

“When I came back after the disaster, in the first six years, I always was there at Ground Zero every time watching that.

“So that’s probably the most impact view that I had in all my life.”

Djokovic Wins Dogfight With Federer To Get To Finals

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Arthur Ashe Stadium was rocking in rumbling roars in anticipation of the first Roger vs. Rafa US Open final as Roger Federer stood one point away from the creating the most electrifying encounter in recent US Open history. Firing his forehand with ambition, Novak Djokovic stood up to the five-time champion and more than 20,000 screaming fans in pulling the plug on the Big Apple buzz with audacious shotmaking.

In a dramatic duel that saw tension escalate with each brilliant baseline exchange, Djokovic fought off two match points with successive scorching forehand winners in the 11th game of the final set then withstood a break point in the 12th game to subdue five-time champion Federer, 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and advance to his first US Open final.

When Federer’s final forehand sailed wide, Djokovic stood wide-eyed on the court as if frozen in utter disbelief of completing his comeback and snapping Federer’s streak of six straight US Open finals. Thrusting his arms in triumph, Djokovic crossed himself, pressed his palms together as if in prayer then knelt down and kissed the court.

“It’s really hard to describe the feeling I have right now; 10 minutes ago I was a point from losing this match and now I managed to come back,” said Djokovic. “It’s one of those matches you will always remember in your career. I’m just so happy to be in the final.”

It is Djokovic’s second US Open final in the past four years, but he won’t have much time to celebrate. The 2007 runner-up will face World No. 1 Nadal in Sunday’s 4 p.m. final.

The top-seeded Spaniard stormed into his first Flushing Meadows final, overwhelming 12th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a two hour, 13-minute semifinal that started the day of play on Ashe Stadium.

Continuing his quest to complete the career Grand Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in succession, Nadal may well be reveling in the fact he made quick work of Youzhny while Djokovic, who has been dogged by breathing issues, survived a physically-demanding five-setter with Federer.

“Having three sets match and two hours, or a little bit more, of the match always is great, no?  I gonna be in perfect conditions tomorrow, so that’s very positive,” Nadal said.  “We will see what happen.”

Given the fact Nadal has not surrendered a set so far, has only dropped serve twice in this tournament, owns a 14-7 career edge over Djokovic and Djokovic is coming off a a grueling semifinal with little turnaround time you might think the final could be as closely contested as an arm-wrestling match between the Incredible Hulk and Olivier Rochus.

The final is not a foregone conclusion though. Djokovic has won seven of 10 hard-court meetings with Nadal, including three in a row without dropping a set. Nadal’s last hard-court win over Djokovic was a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 triumph in the semifinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It might sound borderline blasphemous to even suggest it, but could Djokovic, whose two-handed backhand is a more effective hard-court shot than Federer’s one-handed backhand, actually be better equipped to challenge Nadal on the US Open Deco Turf than 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer?

“When he’s playing well, probably (he) is the player who can play at high level for moments, no?  Because he can have winners from every part of the court.  He serve, when he’s serving well, help him a lot, because he can have very good serves,” Nadal said of Djokovic. “He’s a very difficult opponent for me, especially I had a lot of loses against him in this kind of surface.  I have victories, too, but I have loses.”

Djokovic’s recent US Open have been littered with a littany of loss all at the hands of Federer.

Down 15-30, Federer pulled out the slice forehand for the first time all day and moved forward behind that shot, slicing a sharp-angled backhand crosscourt to draw even. A scrambling Djokovic dug out a difficult running forehand to elicit the error and it was deuce. Two points later, Federer fired his 10th ace to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth set.

Deadlocked at deuce at 3-all, Djokovic was in control of the point and hit a backhand that landed on the line. The shot was incorrectly called out, chair umpire Enric Moline overruled, the point was replayed and Federer hit a service winner. On the second deuce, Federer fied a backhand down the line to open the court followed by an inside-out forehand winner for ad.  Djokovic was beyond ball boy territory, nine feet off the court when he made a spectaculaar get. Federer netted an open-court forehand to face another deuce.

After a fourth deuce, Federer held when Djokovic netted a return for 4-3.

In the eighth game, Federer was racing off the doubles alley aiming for an open area down the line. If he connected on the shot it would have been a sure winner and given Federer double-break point, but he flattened a backhand into the net near the Mercedes symbol and Djokovic dug out a difficult hold for 4-all.

More than two hours into the match, Djokovic, a man whose past questionable conditioning, breathing issues and willingness to tap out in major matches has haunted him, showed resilience in his spirt and spring in his step.

Storming the net, Djokovic deflected a series of reflex volleys then leaped to snap off an overhead winner for break point. He broke for 2-1 and quickly consolidated for 3-1.

A distracted Federer sprayed a backhand long as Djokovic earned double break point at 15-40. Federer fought off the first two break points, but did not move his feet and laced a backhand into the net to hand Djokovic a third break point. Cutting quickly to his right, Djokovic drilled a forehand pass down the line that ricocheted off Federer’s Wilson racquet and he trotted to the side line raising a clenched fist toward his parents, who leaped out of their seats in support, holding a 4-1 fourth-set lead.

Despite serving just 48% in the fourth set, Djokovic permitted only five points on serve to seize the set in 31 minutes.

The fight for the final would go the distance.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Has Field Caught Up To Federer?

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – A US Open Final without Roger Federer?

That’s like the Yankees without the postseason or New York without the Statue of Liberty.

Or even Batman fighting crime in Gotham without his cape and utility belt.

Well it happened and you can thank the Djoker for having it come true.

In what is maybe the best match of the tournament, The Maestro goes down in a five set classic to Novak Djokovic, 5-7 6-2 5-7 6-2 7-5.

Djokovic wasn’t perfect in the match, but it does show how much ground was made up over the past few years. Before, Federer was clearly the best player in the tournament with every other player hoping for second place. Now, the playing field seems more level.

“It’s normal, because you can’t go through 10‑, 15‑year career thinking you’ll always be at the very top,” Federer said.  “I think I did incredible work staying so long in the top 2 in the world. I never would have guessed in ’04 when I got to No. 1 for the first time that it was going to carry me for so long and that I was always going to be part of quarters, semis, finals of slams, and get a shot over and over again.

“I struggled to get into my first Grand Slam final back in 2003; whereas everybody predicted I was gonna win many and get to No. 1.  It’s just not as easy as it seems.  You can see with other players who are trying it.  There’s many tough guys out there, and it’s gotten very physical, very mental. But I think I’m doing really well under the circumstances with as many challengers.  I got a few guys back who were able to beat me, and many times when I lose I feel like it’s on my racquet.  That’s a good thing, you know.

“I wouldn’t want to feel the way that I couldn’t compete with the new generation, but I can.  It’s not a problem for me.”

Of course, Rafael Nadal is still standing in the Serbian’s way to his second Grand Slam title and after the Spaniard’s easy win, 6-2 6-3 6-4 over Mikhail Youzhny, Djokovic may have his hands full.

Federer, though, isn’t even bothering to watch. After being immersed in tennis over the past few weeks, the five-time champion said he had no interest in watching a final where he’s not playing.

“I will be spending time with the kids and go shopping,” he said. “I don’t know if the shops are open on Sunday in New York, but something will be.”

You can’t blame him though. The Maestro played his heart out and had a double match point in Game 10 of the fifth set. Yet, Djokovic was able to fight back, win that point and break Federer in the next game.

“I lost a couple more with match points this year, so they all pretty much feel the same, you know,” said Federer, whose only Grand Slam this year came in Melbourne.  “They feel somewhat empty at the end because you have tried everything, and maybe it was luck.  Maybe it was he played well.  Maybe you didn’t pick the right shot; maybe he did, you know.

“Can’t turn back time, but, look, obviously had to come up come up with a couple of good shots on match point, so I don’t feel I have that many regrets in that regard.  Obviously you feel like you left something out if you lose the match having had match point.

“Yeah, it wasn’t the final, so I’m not as disappointed it would have been the final.  That’s the only positive news to enjoy anything out of it.”

What was surprising, though, was the relative easy Djokovic had in the second and fourth sets, where Federer only managed one and two games, respectively. It may have been there, where the former US Open Champion lost the match, because it gave the Serbian a belief he could win.

“Oh, it was close in the fifth,” he said.  Unfortunately the second and fourth just kind of snuck away from me, I guess.  The 1‑All 40‑15 game for me was a tough one to take in the second set, because I thought momentum was completely on my side. I tried to play aggressive, not to give him too much rhythm, and it all came back at me.  I let him back in the match like that.

“At the end, it’s not easy, you know.  3‑All, 4‑All, 5‑All in the fifth, anything can happen.  That’s the good part, not the bad part, because it’s not purely in your control.”

“Sure, now looking back I missed a few too many forehands at the very end, but the match won’t be decided on winners only.  You can also see mistakes, and he pushed me to make those.  Credit to him.”

And so on a day where New York wanted to finally see the ultimate matchup of Federer vs. Nadal, the Djoker spoiled the plans. And now Gotham’s Dark Knight will have a rare early September Sunday off, while the world’s eyes will turn to Federer-free final for the first time since 2003.

Rafa Rides Right To The Finals

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The ball sped off the strings so fast for a moment it appeared the force of the swing could send a vibration dampener spinning around the string bed like a particularly lively super ball bounding around a roulette wheel. Rafael Nadal watched his final serve land safely and exploded into the air like a man propelled from his own personal launching pad. He landed in his first career US Open final after wrapping up a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Mikhail Youzhny in today’s semifinal.

The semifinal had served as a stop sign for Nadal in each of the past two years — he fell to Andy Murray in a rain-interrupted 2008 semifinal and was blown off the court by big-hitting Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in last September’s semis — but the top-seeded Spaniard played with authoritative ambition in surging to his 20th consecutive Grand Slam victory today.

“For me, it is a dream I am going to play the final here in the biggest center court of the world,” Nadal said. “I try my best so after a lot of work so I am very happy for that.”

Playing progressively stronger with each passing round, Nadal has kicked his game into a higher gear like a sprinter downshifting into speedier strides with the tape in sight as he is now one win removed from becoming the seventh man in history to complete the career Grand Slam.

Continuing his quest to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in succession, Nadal has not surrendered a set in six tournament victories and now the world watches and waits for a potential electrifying encounter in tomorrow’s final.

If five-time champion Roger Federer defeats Novak Djokovic for the fourth consecutive time at the Open in today’s second semifinal then the archrivals will face off in their first Flushing Meadows final. It would be their 18th meeting in a championship match, second to Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, who met in 20 finals.

Nadal and Federer have split the spoils at the Grand Slam table in combining to claim 21 of the last 24 major championships.

It would be a historic match-up marking the first time in history two men squared off in all four Grand Slam tournament finals. A Federer-Nadal final would be their eighth Grand Slam title match, setting the record for most major meetings (they currently share the record of seven major final face-offs with Bill Tilden and William Johnston, who met in seven straight US Championships from 1919-1925.).

Seeking to become the first Russian man to reach a major final since Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and the second Russian finalist in Flushing Meadow after Safin, who stunned Pete Sampras to capture the title a decade ago, Youzhny need to play big and bold, but instead looked tired and timid for long stretches of the match.

Youzhny punctuated a few of his errant shots by tapping his adidas with the rim of racquet as if trying to shake some sense into his shot selection through flogging his feet.

“Maybe he was a little bit more tired than me; he played a longer match during the week,” Nadal said.

Depleted by his 3-6, 7-6(7-), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over 25th-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka that spanned exactly four hours, a spent Youzhny looked like a man fully aware he had little left in his inner reservoir. The clarity Youzhny showed in his shot selection against Wawrinka was missing at times today. Nadal’s fast feet and ability to track down balls that elude most mortals caused Youzhny to think before he struck at times and he conceded that the mind-body connection was a bit out of sync.

“I cannot say I’m really tired, but yeah, (I) was not fast enough today,” Youzhny said. “My decision was not really fast. I mean, I (was) moving well, but my head was one step back of my hand and my legs. So that’s why I was thinking too long where I have to play. That’s why some mistakes and that’s why made the score like this one.”

Nadal has a habit of infiltrating opponent’s heads with his anticipation, unerring consistency and court coverage that seems to squeeze the court to the size of a parking space.

“He’s consistent. He play really high level all year,” Youzhny said of Nadal. “Not everybody can play like this. Some players play really well maybe three tournaments and four, five tournaments play not so well. Even top players. But Federer and Nadal I think (are) more consistent players. His level is a little bit higher than all other players.”

Read more of Rich Pagliaro at TennisNow.com.

CBS May Have Another Nightmare

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The groans you are hearing are coming from the CBS booth, as their nightmare scenario has come true on the women’s side.

A final of Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva really won’t turn too many heads. Clijsters story was already written last year, while Zvonareva, well let’s just say CBS would rather broadcast a Warren Zevon concert tomorrow night than have to put the 26 year-old Russian on the air.

Thankfully for the Tiffany Network, there’s still a strong men’s final that will be determined tomorrow. Of course they would like to see Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal and right now you can bet CBS executives are lighting candles and saying novenas, praying that it will come true.

Will it happen? We will know tomorrow. But right now, let’s speculate and see what CBS has ahead for itself.

Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer – This is the matchup everyone on 57th Street wants to see. The Maestro vs. the Rock-and-Roll star. Grace vs. Speed. No. 1 vs. No. 2. The Greatest of All Time against the Up and Comer.

There are so many angles they can go here and if it happens, CBS will be a very happy network.

Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic – Ok if you can’t have Nadal against Federer then this is the only other matchup that will work. CBS could cast Djokovic as a villain and make it a good vs. evil matchup. Heck, Djokovic even has a villian’s name in The Djoker.

Roger Federer vs. Mikhail Youzhny – Ok you do have Federer. But Y-A-W-N. Who wants to see the Maestro just kill the No. 12 seed for an hour and a half? I would rather be watching football and so will most of America.

Novak Djokovic   vs. Mikhail Youzhny – The nightmare scenario where many of the CBS executives will be hurling themselves off buildings rather than watch this barnburner. CBS is better running reruns of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. They would probably get better ratings.

Youzhny Moves To Semis After Five Set Classic

The American flag flapped frantically behind a biting wind at the top of Arthur Ashe Stadium while Mikhail Youzhny and Stanislas Wawrinka fought furiously on the court below.

On a day when a wickedly wild wind swirling at high speed made tennis balls bounce as bizarrely around the court as ping pong balls careening crazily inside the glass of lottery hopper, Youzhny effectively exploited the elements and mastered massive fifth-set pressure to advance to his second US Open semifinal with a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Wawrinka that spanned exactly four hours.

“It was so close,” Youzhny said. “Right now I’m happy because I just finished the match and I win this match. So (it is a) good result, but already you are in semifinal and you still play.  Of course you want more. Anyway, I don’t think now is good result, so I want more.”

The 12th-seeded Russian will face either World No. 1 Rafael Nadal or eighth-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in Saturday’s semifinal. The winner of that match will face five-time US Open champion Roger Federer or third-seeded Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final.

“He’s No. 1; he won two Grand Slams; he play really, really well; it will be very tough for me,” Youzhny said of Nadal , adding “Of course it’s better to play (Nadal) here (than) on clay.”

New York City has often brought the best out in Youzhny.

Four years ago, Youzhny reached the Flushing Meadows final four, falling to Andy Roddick, 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-7(3), 3-6..

“It was also close, tough match.  I won first set; I easily lost second.  It was tiebreak in third set.  Nobody know what happens if I won this tiebreak,” Youzhny said. “But, you know, it was four years ago.  Now I think it’s another time, and I’m like another player.  I cannot say I am better player now, but it’s another time and other opponent, so everything can happen.”

While the 28-year-old Russian could face an immense challenge against either Nadal or Verdasco, Youzhny is the only man left in the draw who has a win over Nadal at the US Open.

He beat Nadal in four sets in the 2006 US Open quarterfinal. Though Nadal has won seven of 11 meetings with Youzhny, the Russian with the brilliant one-handed backhand has a 4-3 record vs. Nadal on hard courts.

The victory vaults Youzhny back into the world’s top 10 for the first time since February of 2008 when he reached a career-high rank of No. 8.

Playing determined defense in the opening game of the fifth set, Youzhny centered the ball in a long backhand-to-backhand exchange. Finally, Wawrinka made a move to net, Youzhny bending his legs to get low lasered a backhand blast crosscourt to pass the Swiss and break for a 1-0 fifth-set lead. Youzhny worked his way through a deuce game to consolidate for 2-0.

Youzhny fought off a break point in the fourth game when Wawrinka steered a forehand pass up the line wide. But on the second break point, Wawrinka lured Youzhny forward and the Russian lifted a backhand approach beyond the baseline as a fired-up Wawrinka broke back for 2-2.

It proved to be a short-lived as Wawrinka set a backhand wide and Youzhny broke back for 3-2. Working his way out of a 30-all game, Youzhny held for 4-2.

Seeing the match slip away a frustrated Wawrinka smashed his racquet to the court after burying a backhand into the net as Youzhny held at love for 5-3.

A weary Wawrinka was playing with protective adhesive taping on both quads and took an injury time-out to get re-taped midway through the fourth set. Walking slowly behind the baseline between points, Wawrinka looked lethargic as if worn down by the draining duel he had with Sam Querrey in the fourth round. Wawrinka emerged with a 7-6(9), 6-7(5), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win in that match and it took a toll today.

“I think I gave everything today and I try for sure,” Wawrinka said. “I made some big mistake, but after four hours, you’re really tired. I was tired. So it’s not always easy to think and to play the right drop shots or to play the good point and not to break the racquet.”

Youzhny gained the early break and made it stand up as Wawrinka tried to shorten up the points. After Youzhny blocked a backhand volley winner into the open court  to hold for 5-2, Wawrinka left the court, returned minutes later and relied on some strong serving to hold for 3-5.

Wawrinka pulled a new Head racquet out of his bag, but lost his grip in the ninth game. After slicing a backhand into the net, the Swiss wound up and slammed the racquet to the court. Two points later, Youzhny served out the fourth set to level the match.

Wawrinka burst out to a fast start in the third set, breaking in the second game and holding for a 3-0 lead. Sprinting with his back to the net, Youzhny hit a between the legs shot that seemed to surprise Wawrinka who pushed an easy forehand volley wide as Youzhny got on the board at 1-3.

Maintaining his break lead throughout the set, Wawrinka, who bungled several volleys, was stuck at net. Youzhny had a clean look at a pass, but opted to lob and the wind tossed the backhand lob long giving Wawrinka  second set point. Rearing back, the Swiss slammed a 135 mph ace to take a two set to one lead two hours, 28 minutes into the match.

Serving at 5-6 in the second set, Wawrinka was at 30-all when a Youzhny drive was called deep. He challenged and replay showed the ball clipped the back of the line. It ws an unfortunate call for the Russian as Youzhny had the offensive at that point in the rally. He buried a backhand into net and two points later Wawrinka held to force the tie breaker.

Wawrinka withstood two set points and on Youzhny’s third set point he sliced a backhand that flirted with the top of the tape before settling on his side of the net.

Shrugging that near-miss off, Youzhny curled a crosscourt running forehand pass that eluded Wawrinka’s outstretched racquet for a fourth set point.

That shot prompted Youzhny’s typically non-expressive coach, Boris Sobkin, who can be as stoic as Stonehenge, to leap out of his seat and pump his fist toward Youzhny. Empowered by that shot, Youzhny cornered Wawrinka on the backhand side and beat him with an inside-out forehand winner, leaping in the air in celebration after seizing the one hour, 10-minute second set.

Wawrinka sprinted out to a fast start in the third set, breaking in the second game and holding for a 3-0 lead. Sprinting with his back to the net, Youzhny hit a between the legs shot that seemed to surprised Wawrinka who pushed an easy forehand volley wide as Youzhny got on the board at 1-3.

Richard Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Youzhny Into The Quarters

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Transforming his Head into a helmet, Mikhail Youzhny looks a little like a military man in issuing his trademark four-corner salute after each US Open victory. On this day the Russian played the role of traffic cop in giving Tommy Robredo the runaround before bringing the Spaniard’s roll to a halt.

The 12th-seeded Russian with the buzz cut trimmed Robredo 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, to advance to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2006 when he beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals before bowing to Andy Roddick in the semifinals.

The 28-year-old Youzhny will face either 20th-seeded Sam Querrey or 25th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Youzhny gained internet notoriety when he slammed his racquet repeatedly against his forehead in frustration during a masochist match moment in Miami.

He actually drew blood in bashing himself in the head, but these days a more stable Youzhny slices opponents apart then transforms his Head racquet into a helmet saluting fans at the end of  a match.

“(It is) just salute for thanks for crowd, you know,” Youzhny said. “A lot of guys are kiss their hands and say thanks, put racquet up and say thanks.  I do like this one.”

Youzhny takes the ball earlier than Robredo, hits flatter and was extremely effective creating court openings he exploited driving his one-handed backhand down the line. It’s a play particularly effective against Robredo, who gives up court space to run around his backhand and fire his favor forehand.

“I like how I played today. Of course, I have some mistakes,” Youzhny said. “I was a little bit lucky in fourth set.  Maybe not a little bit when I have first net ball and breakpoint; but I have some chances in third set. I think first set was Tommy played better than me, but third set maybe I play better than Tommy.  So that’s why second set just Tommy make a lot of mistakes.  That’s it was so easy and so fast.”

Four years ago, Youzhny reduced Nadal into the role of retriever, sending the World No. 2 scurrying from one side-to-side  like a lost tourist trying to avoid traffic while crossing the Grand Central Parkway.

He will likely be doing a lot more running himself against either Querrey or Wawrinka, but has the ability to play with either man. Youzhny is 1-0 vs. Querrey and 2-2 lifetime vs. Wawrinka.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Rafa Adjusts To Life at No. 1

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The US Open is the only Grand Slam title trophy missing from Rafael Nadal’s major trophy collection and the two-time semifinalist is trying to make necessary adjustments to acquire it. The top-seeded Spaniard didn’t completely find his comfort zone in Tuesday night’s 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 6-3 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili, but played the pivotal points with purpose. Nadal is trying to adapt his heavy topspin game to the faster speed and lower bounce of the ball off the blue Deco Turf courts.

“(The US Open) Is the more difficult for me, especially I think because the ball,” Nadal said.  “The ball is the more difficult thing for me because the ball I think is more easy to play that ball for the players when they have the flat shots, no?  That’s much easier for them than for the topspin players.  That’s the only thing. But I won Olympics with this ball.  I won in Beijing in 2005 with this ball.  I can do it.”

Nadal’s history in Flushing Meadows is littered with losses to players who hit flat, including Juan Martin del Potro last year and James Blake, and players with the ability to flatten out the ball, including Andy Murray, who knocked Nadal out of the 2008 semifinals, David Ferrer and Mikhail Youzhny.

The eight-time Grand Slam champion is trying to play a bit flatter when he draws the mid-court ball but said he’s trying to use his topspin to dictate play.

“The thing is play with topspin, but play very aggressive all the time, play with very high rhythm.  That’s the way,” Nadal said.

The Nadal backhand return was an issue in Cincinnati where he seemingly had so little confidence in his two-handed backhand, he resorted to chipping back his return in his matches against Julien Benneteau, where hs saved a match point and his quarterfinal loss to Marcos Baghdatis.

Practicing with his coach, Uncle Toni Nadal, who was not in Cincinnati but made the trip to New York, Nadal has consistently worked on driving through the backhand and finishing that stroke, but concedes it’s still a work in progress.

“The forehand is working well.  The backhand is not that bad that I had last weeks,” Nadal said.  “So improves a little bit.  Just remains a little bit of this confidence to have a little bit more, you know, to improve a little bit that level, to go to the next step.”

The next step could be a slightly tricky one as Denis Istomin awaits. The 39th-ranked Istomin is coming off the New Haven finals and pushed Nadal to three sets on the grass of Queen’s Club, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

“He’s playing well.  He had a very good tournament in New Haven.  Yeah, sure is difficult opponent, good player,” Nadal said. “I played against him in the second round of Queen’s.  I had a very difficult match…He plays a little bit more calm than Gabashvili.  So, I don’t know, I just have to keep playing like I did today, a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more confidence.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.