Day off does Nadal a power of good

Spaniard into semis after making short work of Gonzalez – eventually
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Rafael Nadal had to wait more than 36 hours to complete his US Open quarter-final against Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, and when the Spaniard got back on court here yesterday he was in no mood to waste time. Resuming in the middle of the second-set tie- break, Nadal needed little more than half an hour to complete a 7-6 7-6 6-0 victory and earn a place against Juan Martin del Potro in today's semi-finals.

The match, which began on Thursday night, resumed just after midday with Gonzalez serving at 2-3 in the tie-break. It could hardly have started better for Nadal. Gonzalez hit forehands long on the first three points and the world No 3 hit a service winner on the fourth to secure the set with the minimum of fuss.

Things got even worse for Gonzalez. The Chilean, serving in the first game of the third set, went 0-30 down, recovered to deuce but then served a double fault on Nadal's second game point, upon which he hurled his racket to the ground in fury.

With rain starting to fall, Nadal was keen to finish the match quickly, particularly after Gonzalez called for the trainer to rebandage his left foot after going 0-3 down. Gonzalez, however, seemed to have lost heart and Nadal went on to close out the match in decisive style. By the time Gonzalez put a forehand into the net on the first match point, he had won only 11 of the 42 points contested yesterday.

Nadal had sympathy with his opponent. "It's always difficult," he said. "The start of a tie-break is a lottery. Anything can happen. Luckily for me, today I won the first four points and that was decisive in the match."

At least the one-day delay had enabled Nadal to rest the stomach muscle injury that has forced him to pull out of next week's Davis Cup semi-final against Israel in Murcia. He suffered the injury last month, soon after his return following a two-month break because of tendinitis in his knees, and felt it again here, particularly in the early stages of the match against Gonzalez.

The two men spent five hours on Thursday night trying to complete the match. Nadal having taken the first set, the score was 2-2 in the second when the players were forced off court for 75 minutes. They returned and were playing the second-set tie-break when rain intervened again. Two hours later, at just after midnight, play was called off for the day. The players returned on Friday and spent the whole day waiting in vain for the rain to clear.

Nadal welcomed the enforced day's rest. "I was happy to have one day off to recover and to feel better today," he said. The delay means that he will have to play three days in succession if he makes tomorrow's final, though he said that the speed with which he had beaten Gonzalez meant he would not start his semi-final with a disadvantage compared with the other three players.

But for his injury Nadal would have had good reason to feel aggrieved that the three other semi-finalists will have had at least two days off before playing again. The weather had been good enough on Thursday afternoon for Del Potro, the third man into the quarter-finals, to complete a four-set victory over Marin Cilic, but the tournament organisers chose not to stage the last quarter-final at the same time on another court, despite weather forecasts predicting rain later in the day.

Del Potro, who is through to his second Grand Slam semi-final of the year, lost his first four matches against Nadal but has won the past two, both on hard courts in North America. The 20-year-old Argentinian won in three sets in the Miami Masters in March and in straight sets in last month's Montreal Masters, although Nadal won comfortably when they met in Indian Wells for the first time this year.

"Del Potro is a very good player," Nadal said. "He's very solid from the baseline and right now he's serving unbelievably. I know I have to play my best match if I'm going to win."

The other semi-final sees Roger Federer take on Novak Djokovic in a repeat of the 2007 final. Federer is playing in his 22nd successive Grand Slam semi-final, while Djokovic is playing in his first of the year. The Serb lost to Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals in Melbourne, where he retired with heat exhaustion, to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round at the French Open and to Tommy Haas in the quarter- inals at Wimbledon.

The bad weather forced the organisers to switch yesterday's junior matches to the Sound Shore Tennis Club in Port Chester. The two Britons in the girls' singles both won their quarter-finals in emphatic fashion, Laura Robson beating Lauren Davis of the United States by 6-2 6-3, and Heather Watson beating Thailand's Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, the world No 2, 6-2 6-1. Robson beat Lertcheewakarn in the final of last year's Wimbledon junior tournament and in the semi-finals of this year's Australian Open juniors.

The semi-finals were due to be played later in the day, with Robson facing either Beatrice Capra of the United States or the Russian Yana Buchina and Watson meeting Daria Gavrilova, also of Russia.