AGENCIES NEW YORK, 5th Sep: The closer Rafael Nadal gets to a potential long-awaited U.S. Open matchup with Roger Federer, the better he is playing. Nadal easily returned to the tournament quarterfinals for the first time in four years by routing Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 on Monday.
Nadal turned in his most powerful performance yet on a dominant day for the No. 1 seeds, and moved a victory away from the possible semifinal showdown with his longtime rival at the only major where they have never played. He never gave the unseeded Dolgopolov a chance, breaking serve six times in the 1 hour, 41 minute match.
Nadal hadn't reached the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows since the last of his two U.S. Open titles in 2013. He advanced to face 19-yearold Russian Andrey Rublev, the youngest quarterfinalist since Andy Roddick had just turned 19 in 2001.
Rublev upset No. 9 seed David Goffin 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-3, and will be Nadal's fifth straight unseeded opponent. Nadal had dropped the first set in the two previous rounds but he was locked in from the start of his 50th U.S. Open victory, never losing serve and facing just two break points.
Federer crushed Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-2 7-5 to ease into the quarterfinals and leaving the five-time champion on a collision course for a semifinal showdown with Nadal. The elegant Swiss maestro and the muscular Spaniard have played for titles on French Open clay, Wimbledon's manicured lawns and in Australian heat and while no trophy would be on the line a New York meeting would still have the Big Apple buzzing.
One of the great rivalries sport, Federer and Nadal have clashed 37 times over the years but never stood across from each other on Flushing Meadows' hardcourts.
Federer next faces Juan Martin del Potro whose stay at the U.S. Open really should be long over. Nearly was. The 2009 champion at Flushing Meadows somehow kept staving off defeat in the fourth round against No. 6-seeded Dominic Thiem on Monday. Del Potro was sick and certainly looked sluggish as can be at the outset, dropping the opening two sets with little resistance. Then he trailed by a big margin in the fourth set, even facing two match points.
Still, del Potro never gave in or gave up, eventually working his way all the way back on the strength of powerful serves and thunderous forehands to edge Thiem 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 over more than 3½ hours and reach the quarterfinals. Thiem also aided del Potro by playing his worst tennis when he was closest to victory in the fourth set, which he led 5-2. Thiem served for the match at 5-3, but got broken.
Leading 6-5, he managed to get within a point of winning at 15-40 on del Potro's serve, but a pair of aces at 127 mph and 121 mph erased those two chances. The ensuing tiebreaker was dominated by del Potro, who closed it with a booming cross-court forehand winner on the run. In the fifth set, del Potro closed things on his second match point, when Thiem double-faulted.