Davis Cup on Tennis Channel

LOS ANGELES, September 13, 2012 -Tennis Channel will provide exclusive coverage of the United States semifinal competition against defending champion Spain in Gijon, Spain, this weekend, with live telecasts of each match and same-day, “Instant Encore” replays. Highlighting the competition, American John Isner will face US Open semifinalist and World No. 5 David Ferrer for the first time since the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris last fall, when Isner defeated the Spaniard during the quarterfinals. However, Ferrer has the career upper hand, holding a 3-1 record against the 6-foot-9-inch American. Rounding out the United States team is Sam Querrery and the 2012 US Open doubles champions, twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

If the United States claims victory over Spain this weekend, the Americans will face either Argentina or the Czech Republic in the final. In addition to televising the United States and Spain’s matches each morning, Tennis Channel will cover semifinal competition between 2011 Davis Cup runner-up Argentina and Czech Republic in Buenos Aires, Argentina, each evening.

Coverage from Parque Hermanos Castro in Spain and Parque Roca in Argentina (all times ET):
Friday, Sept. 14:
6 a.m. – Live Singles #1 Spain vs. USA
9 a.m. – Live Singles #2 Spain vs. USA
{12 p.m. – Instant Encore Singles #1 Spain vs. USA}
{3 p.m. – Instant Encore Singles #2 Spain vs. USA}
8 p.m. – Singles #1 Czech Republic vs. Argentina
11 p.m. – Singles #2 Czech vs. Argentina

Saturday, Sept. 15:
8 a.m. – Live Doubles Spain vs. USA
{5 p.m. – Instant Encore Doubles Spain vs. USA}
8 p.m. – Doubles Czech Republic vs. Argentina
{11 p.m. – Instant Encore Singles #2 Czech Republic vs. Argentina}

Sunday, Sept. 16:
6 a.m. – Live Singles #1 Spain vs. USA
9 a.m. – Live Singles #2 Spain vs. USA
{12 p.m. – Instant Encore Singles #1 Spain vs. USA}
{3 p.m. – Instant Encore Singles #2 Spain vs. USA}
8 p.m. – Singles #1 Czech Republic vs. Argentina
11 p.m. – Singles #2 Czech Republic vs. Argentina

The United States and Spain have faced each other ten times in Davis Cup play, with the nations tied at five wins apiece. The Americans’ last victory against the Spaniards came in 2007 when they won 4-1 in the quarterfinal in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, Spain has won the last two meetings against the United States, winning last year’s quarterfinal competition in Austin, Texas, and the 2008 semifinal in Spain. The United States has not defeated Spain on away soil since 1972. The Americans enter this weekend’s match after their second clay-court victory of the year against France in the quarterfinal. The United States leads all nations in Davis Cup championships, winning its 32nd title in 2007 with a 4-1 win against Russia.

Spain has dominated the past decade with five Davis Cup championships since 2000, the most recent in 2011 when it beat Argentina 3-1 in Seville, Spain. The Spanish team is captained by former star Alex Corretja and features the same players who beat Austria 4-1 in the quarterfinal: Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.

The Czech Republic holds a 3-1 advantage over Argentina in Davis Cup competition, most recently winning a 2009 quarterfinal in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Argentina’s sole victory over the Czech Republic came in 2005 in Buenos Aires. The Czech Republic enters this weekend’s match after defeating Serbia 4-1 in the quarterfinals. The Czech nation clinched its only Davis Cup trophy in 1980, when it defeated Italy in Prague while competing under the flag of Czechoslovakia.

The Argentine team is bidding to reach the Davis Cup championship round for its second- consecutive year and has finished runner-up in 1981, 2006 and 2008. Argentina’s team is captained by Martin Jaite and features World No. 8 Juan Martin Del Potro, Juan Monaco, Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank.

Tennis Channel (www.tennischannel.com) is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle. A hybrid of comprehensive sports, health, fitness, pop culture, entertainment, lifestyle and travel programming, the network is home to every aspect of the wide-ranging, worldwide tennis community. It also has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with telecast rights to the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, Emirates Airline US Open Series, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, top-tier WTA competitions, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and Hyundai Hopman Cup. Tennis Channel is carried by nine of the top 10 video providers.
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Nadal Clinches Year End No. 1 For The Second Time

LONDON, ENGLAND – For the second time in three years Rafael Nadal will finish as the No. 1 player in the year-end South African Airways ATP Rankings.

The 24-year-old Spaniard is the ninth player in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973) to finish as ATP World Tour Champion at least twice. He and rival Roger Federer are the only players since 2000 to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking in the week after the US Open. Federer did it in 2004 and ’06.

Nadal said: “It has been an incredible season – one of my best ever, if not the best. Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back (ATP World Tour) Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy.  I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1.”

Nadal will be officially crowned as the 2010 ATP World Tour Champion during a special ceremony at the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, Nov. 21-28. Nadal and Federer are the first two players to qualify for the eight-man field. He is the third left-hander to finish No. 1 at least twice, joining Jimmy Connors (five times, 1974-78) and John McEnroe (four times, 1981-84).

On Monday, Nadal became the seventh man in history to achieve a career Grand Slam as he earned his first US Open title. He is also the first player to win three straight Grand Slam titles in the same year since Rod Laver won all four in 1969. Nadal is the youngest player in the Open Era to achieve a career Grand Slam. It was the Mallorcan native’s ninth career Grand Slam crown and he is the second-youngest player behind Bjorn Borg to win nine Slam titles.

Nadal also joins Ivan Lendl and Federer as the only players to have held, lost and regained the year-end No. 1 ranking in the 37-year history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973). Lendl held the year-end No. 1 ranking from 1985-87 and finished No. 2 in 1988 before reclaiming No. 1 in 1989. Federer was No. 1 from 2004-07, went to No. 2 in ’08 and then returned to the top spot last year.

Nadal leads the ATP World Tour with six titles and a 59-7 match record in 2010. Since April he has won 43 of 46 matches, winning six of nine tournaments, including three consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court events (Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid) and his fifth Roland Garros title in six years. In July, he captured his second Wimbledon title in three years.

ATP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONS (since 1973) MULTIPLE ATP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONS
Year Player Player Number of titles.
2010 Rafael Nadal (Spain) Pete Sampras 6
2009 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Jimmy Conners 5
2008 Rafael Nadal (Spain) Roger Federer 5
2007 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Ivan Lendl 4
2006 Roger Federer (Switzerland) John McEnroe 4
2005 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Bjorn Borg 2
2004 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Stefan Edberg 2
2003 Andy Roddick (U.S.) Lleyton Hewitt 2
2002 Llyeton Hewitt (Australia) Rafael Nadal 2
2001 Lleyton Hewitt (Australia)
2000 Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil)
1999 Andre Agassi (U.S.)
1998 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1997 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1996 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1995 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1994 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1993 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1992 Jim Courier (U.S.)
1991 Stefan Edberg (Sweden)
1990 Stefan Edberg (Sweden)
1989 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1988 Mats Wilander (Sweden)
1987 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1986 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1985 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1984 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1983 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1982 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1981 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1980 Bjorn Borg (Sweden)
1979 Bjorn Borg (Sweden)
1978 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1977 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1976 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1975 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1974 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1973 Ilie Nastase (Romania)

About the ATP
The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) is the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuits – the ATP World Tour, the ATP Challenger Tour and the ATP Champions Tour. With 62 tournaments in 32 countries, the ATP World Tour showcases the finest male athletes competing in the world’s most exciting venues. From Australia and Europe to Africa; from North and South America to Asia, the stars of the ATP World Tour battle for prestigious titles at Grand Slams (non ATP members), ATP World Tour Masters 1000, ATP World Tour 500 and ATP World Tour 250 events. At the end of the season the world’s top 8 ranked singles players and top 8 doubles teams, based on their performance throughout the year, will qualify to compete in the season’s climax – the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Held at The O2 in London, the event determines the final South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings. For more information, please visit www.ATPWorldTour.com.

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.

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.

Nadal KOs F-Lo In Three

Rafael Nadal has changed his grip and asserted a strong hold on this US Open field. Continuing to wreak devastation on the men’s draw, Nadal flogged Feliciano Lopez, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, to storm into his third consecutive US Open quarterfinal. The top seed has not surrendered serve or dropped a set and played with the ferocity of a man who may well run the table in New York, complete the career Grand Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open championships simultaneously.

Gone are the questions about Nadal’s two-handed backhand, which betrayed him in Cincinnati. Gone are the questions about his ability to tame the fast Flushing Meadows hard courts given the fact he has not won a hard-court title since the 2009 Indian Wells and gone is the uncertainty over Nadal’s readiness to reach his first US Open final.

Perhaps the only person in Arthur Ashe Stadium who wasn’t thoroughly impressed with Nadal’s performance tonight was the top-seeded Spaniard himself.

Always the perfectionist, Nadal says he’s playing well, but can get better.

“No, I think I am playing well, but I (am) not playing yet at my highest level,” Nadal told Tennis Now in his 1:30 a.m. press conference. “But I am playing well. To be in the quarterfinals of the quarterfinals of the US Open without losing a set and without losing serve, two things must work really well: the concentration and the serve. Without those two things, you gonna lose for sure serves, no?”

Nadal will take on former Davis Cup teammate Fernando Verdasco in the first all-Spanish US Open quarterfinal in Open Era history.

The eighth-seeded Verdasco fought back from a two-set deficit and a 1-4 hole in the fifth-set tiebreaker, winning six straight points to score a stirring victory over David Ferrer.

Running down a Ferrer shot well behind the baseline, Verdasco stumbled slightly, regained his balance then sprinted forward to lift a lunging forehand pass up the line  — an exceptional exclamation point to punctuate a 5-7, 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory that vaulted Verdasco into the US Open quarterfinals for the second straight year.

“After I lost the first two sets, of course, it’s tough,” Verdasco said. “You just need to win all the other sets. I came back till the fifth set and of course even that I was 4-1 down in the tie break, I was not going to say ‘Okay, that’s it. I was going to try my best until the end. I was, of course, with 4-1 down in the tie break  much more chances to lose than to win, but I just kept fighting and trying.”

When Verdasco saw Ferrer near net, he anticipated the volley, streaked forward on a diagonal line and was near the doubles alley when he caught up to the ball. Reaching the ball was a feat in itself, it’s what Verdasco did with it that will make this shot one for the highlight reel.

Seeing a sliver of space up the line, he squeezed his stretch forehand down the line, watched the ball land and then fell flat on his back, staring straight up into the white lights as the crowd exploded in support.

“(It) is tough to explain. You are with your sixth sense in the ball knowing how important that is just trying to run, fight,” Verdasco said. “When I did the backhand along the line passing shot, I was like even surprised that he took the volley. Of course my reaction was just keeping the point and start running forward…So I start running I just saw the space. When you see there is a little bit of space, you just try to put the ball in. It was like unbelievable.”

Will Verdasco, who is winless in 10 career meetings with Nadal, have any legs left for the quarterfinal?

“I hope that this is gonna give me big confidence, this match,” Verdasco said. “And I also hope to be 100 percent physically after a tough match like today to play against one player like Nadal that you need to be like 100 percent to try to face him, to try to beat him. I will just try to do all the things right and good as best as possible. Everybody knows that he’s No. 1 in the world; he’s a great plaeyr. My record is not too good against him. But I will keep trying and keep fighting to make the first time here.”

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.

Spain Takes The Lead In US Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Rafael Nadal was an avid soccer player growing up in Mallorca and traveled to South Africa to watch Spain win its World Cup earlier this summer. But these days the top-seeded Spaniard just can’t quite kick a hard habit. Winning is addictive and Nadal is hopelessly hooked in leading a Spanish Imposition at the US Open.

The top quarter of the US Open draw is saturated in Spanish colors, ensuring at least one Spanish semifinalist.

Nadal sent new father Gilles Simon headed for the next plane to Paris to meet his newborn baby in pounding out a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory to storm into a US Open fourth round showdown against sometime Davis Cup teammate Feliciano Lopez.

Spanish men set a Grand Slam Open Era record with nine players reaching the third round.

Fernando Verdasco and Lopez partnered to send Spain to the 2008 Davis Cup championship and the lefthanders flicked their respective wrists in scripting Spain’s stamp on this US Open. Verdasco diffused David Nalbandian, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 on the Grandstand court and Lopez followed on the same stage, holding a 6-3, 4-0 lead when Sergiy Stakhovsky retired from their match.

Verdasco will face David Ferrer, a 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-2 winner over Daniel Gimeno-Traver, for a place in the quarterfinals. Verdasco has won six of 10 meetings with Ferrer with nine of those encounters coming on clay. Ferrer won their only hard-court meeting six years ago in Chennai. Playing for a trip to his second straight US Open quarterfinal, Verdasco takes on a capable opponent in the 10th-seeded Ferrer, who knocked Nadal out of the Open in the 2007 round of 16.

“It’s always nice to see all the Spanish winning and being in the last rounds, no?” Verdasco said  “So if you need to lose, it’s better to lose against a Spanish player, then at least one guy is gonna be there one round more, no? I’m happy.  I hope to play good also the next round, keep doing my work and my job as better as possible.  Trying to play the best to be in the quarterfinals like last year.”

Twenty years ago, the Spanish Armada sailed primarily on the red clay seas, but Spanish men have conquered all surfaces now.

“It’s kind of surprising to have so many players in the fourth round,” said Lopez after snapping Stakhovsky’s seven match winning streak. “What can I say about Spanish tennis? It’s always there. And since 15-20 years ago we are winning almost everything, no? Before we were the best on clay. Now we win on grass, on everywhere no? So it’s gonna be one time that his is gonna be over and the people will have to accept.”

Continuing his quest to complete the career Grand Slam, Nadal produced another impressive serving performance in winning 39 of 43 points played on his first serve (91 percent), smacking a 135 mph serve and erasing the only break point he faced.

Nadal has not dropped a set or surrendered serve in three tournament victories and will be primed and pumped to avenge his Queen’s Club loss to Lopez when they square off on Tuesday.

The Spanish players dine together, practice together and hold court in the same corner of the locker room and will share the court again as Verdasco plays David Ferrer with the winner meeting the Nadal-Lopez winner in the quarterfinals.

“We practice more with the Spanish players because they are friends and it’s easier for us to get in touch with them and to call them for practice or whatever because we are almost together every day and we go for dinner,” Lopez said.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Nadal Sweeps Himself Into The Third Round

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The ball gleamed like a yellow splotch of paint popping off a blue canvas as Denis Istomin streaked forward, his eyes riveted on the ball. Skidding into a sliding split, Istomin somehow dug out a winner, popped up from the court like a jack-in-the box and pumped his fist furiously seizing a 5-1 strong hold in the second-set tie breaker against Rafael Nadal tonight.

It was one of the most eye-popping points of this Flushing Meadows fortnight. Istomin left a long black skid mark across the court and Nadal applauded in appreciation for his opponent’s efforts.

Then the top-seeded Spaniard took off the gloves, elevated his intensity even higher and reeled off six straight points to post a highly-entertaining 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-5 victory to roll into the US Open third round.

There’s the physical demands of playing Nadal compounded by the sheer demoralizing fact that even after you give all you can give and hurl your body around the court with abandon, Nadal responds with even great intensity and concentration.

“He fought a good point. He played a great point,” Nadal said of Istomin’s efforts. “I had to win that point three times before, but he did well. Finally, he ws fast going for the drop shot and he pass me. Just a tough point for me…But I think I stayed very well mentally in that moment. I was playing with big calm and big concentration. And finally, I was a little bit lucky for sure. (It) is impossible to come back from 5-1, I had a little bit lucky. It was a very important moment of the match.”

It was Nadal’s 16th consecutive Grand Slam victory and sets up a third-round meeting with Gilles Simon, who topped 29th-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Nadal has beaten the 42nd-ranked Frenchman in three of their four meetings, including a 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 win in the 2009 Australian Open quarterfinals.

The Nadal serve was a key stroke tonight. He struggled at times on serve in Cincinnati, but saved all seven break points he faced tonight and smacked a 134 mph serve, the fastest serve he’s hit at the US Open.

Asked how he’s found his service rhythm, Nadal replied: “Well, (Uncle) Toni arrives and everything under control.”

“Seriously, I don’t know,” Nadal added. “That’s pretty strange because I wasn’t serving very well the previous days. I started to serve well one or two days before the competition. But the week of practice, I wasn’t serving well, no?”

A slight grip change seems to have remedied that issue.

“I changed a little bit the grip, like five or six days ago, because I felt when I played against the wind I didn’t have free points,” Nadal said. “So I needed that. So I tried to play the serve a little more aggressive. For the moment, it’s working really well so I am going to try to keep playing like this. And sure, serve is like big confidence for my game.”

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.