Swiss Legend's Balky Back, Resurgent Del Potro Could Make US Open Quarterfinal A Lot More Difficult To Navigate

By Ann Liguori
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NEW YORK (WFAN) — Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are on track to clash in the semifinals of the US Open.

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They each have one more round to go, so it’s still not guaranteed at this point, but it’s the meeting that everyone is hoping to see. And, if it happens, it would be the first meeting for the two at the US Open.

Nadal, the top seed this year and a two-time champion, looked like the 15-time Grand Slam champion he is during the last two rounds. On Monday, the 31-year-old Spaniard had no problem against Alexandr Dolgopolov, winning 6-2 6-4 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. It’s the first time Nadal is in the Round of 8 at the US Open since 2013, when he won his second Open title. Monday’s match took only one hour and 41 minutes. Nadal has gotten better and better as the tournament has progressed.

Nadal will next play 19-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia. Rublev knocked out No. 9 seed David Goffin on Monday and before that took out Grigor Dimitrov, the seventh seed. Rublev is the youngest player through to the US Open quarters since Andy Roddick in 2001.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal returns a shot against Alexandr Dolgopolov during their fourth-round men’s singles match at the US Open on Sept. 4, 2017, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

After his win on Labor Day, Nadal was asked again about the possibility of meeting Federer in the semifinals and he repeated the answer he stated when he was asked the question at the beginning of the championship.

“I gonna repeat,” Nadal said. “Remain one match for me and two matches for him. You can ask me about that in two days. If I am here with victory and I will answer you with a lot of great pleasure if that happen. I will be very happy to be in that semifinal if that happen. Now I have Rublev in front. Maximum respect for him and going to be a tough one. He played already great matches winning against Dimitrov, against Goffin in straight sets. Is not a moment to talk about Federer for me.”

Not long after Nadal spoke, 19-time Grand Slam champ and No. 3 seed Federer disposed of Philip Kohlschreiber, the 33rd seed from Germany, winning 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in 1 hour and 49 minutes.

After Federer won the second set, he took a medical time out and went into the trainer’s room. After the match, he admitted he was getting a massage on his bottom. He looked fine when he came back out for the third set.

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Federer had back issues coming into this championship.

Federer will next play Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentinian, despite suffering from a virus over the previous 48 hours, rallied from two sets down to beat Austrian Dominic Thiem, the No. 6 seed, 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4.

Juan Martin del Potro

Juan Martin del Potro returns a shot to Roberto Bautista Agut during their US Open match on Sept. 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images)

If Federer’s back isn’t 100 percent, he could have his hands full with del Potro. Federer has beaten him 16 of 21 times they’ve played, but I’m not convinced that physically Federer is 100 percent. And he was pushed to two five-set matches in the first two rounds, which can’t be good for a sore back and a 36-year-old body. I know he’s the greatest of all time, and maybe he can still win if he’s not quite 100 percent, but it will undoubtedly be a tough match.

Del Potro beat Federer in the 2009 US Open final. I know that match was a while ago, and Federer has dominated the series since, but del Potro has come back with a vengeance since taking two years off due to wrist surgery. He’ll be more than determined.

Unlike Nadal, Federer decided to look ahead and comment on a possible semifinal match against his long-time rival.

“I think it would mean a lot for both of us,” Federer said. “We both would love to play again each other. I think it would be good for the game.”

Yes, it would. It’s a match we all want to see. Here’s to hoping that more history will play out at the US Open.

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Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori