US Open: Nadal advances to semi-finals

Top seed Rafael Nadal advanced to the US Open semi-finals by defeating eighth-seeded Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday, stretching his Grand Slam win streak to 19 matches.

Nadal, seeking his first US Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, will play Saturday for a finals berth against Russian 12th seed Mikhail Youzhny, who outlasted Swiss 25th seed Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

World number one Nadal reached his third consecutive US Open semi-final but has never reached the championship match, losing to Britain’s Andy Murray in 2008 and eventual winner Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina last year.

Nadal, 24, seeks his ninth career Grand Slam title and third in a row in 2010 after Wimbledon and the French Open. Only Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Rod Laver have won three Slams in a row in the Open Era that began in 1968.

Swiss second seed Federer, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, and Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic meet in the other semi-final. Both were off Thursday but barring rain Nadal must win three matches in four days to claim the title.

In blustery winds, Nadal connected on 66 percent of his first serves and made only 16 unforced errors compared to 41 for Verdasco.

The Russian could foil hopes for a Nadal-Federer final at the only Grand Slam where they have never played in the title match.

Nadal could join Federer, Andre Agassi, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Fred Perry as the only men to complete the career Grand Slam, but his concentration on the moment has kept him from pondering that possibility.

Nadal rolled into the last eight without surrendering a set or service game, having saved 13 break points and won 85 percent of first-serve points.

The showdown of left-handers began when Verdasco, seeking his first US Open semi-final, took the first service break of the tournament off Nadal to seize a 2-1 lead, Nadal netting a forehand to surrender his serve at love.

Verdasco, 26, saved a break point in the fourth game when Nadal sent a wind-blown forehand long.

But Verdasco double-faulted away a break in the eighth game to draw Nadal level.

Nadal, who had dropped only three sets in 10 matches with Verdasco, broke at love in the 12th game to take the set, the last point on a forehand volley to end an extended rally.

Nadal, who improved to 106-1 in Grand Slam matches when he wins the first set, broke for a 4-2 lead in set two, pressured Verdasco sending a cross-court forehand wide on the pivotal point, and held twice more to win the second set.

The Spanish superstar, now 90-0 in Grand Slams when winning the first two sets, broke to begin the third set and held out from there to advance after two hours and 22 minutes.