Saturday 23 September 2017

Nadal takes positives from 'solid' passage to quarter-final

 

Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Alexandr Dolgopolov during the fourth round of the U.S. Open. Photo: AP
Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Alexandr Dolgopolov during the fourth round of the U.S. Open. Photo: AP

Eleanor Crooks

World No 1 Rafa Nadal hit form at the US Open to stroll into the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.

The Spanish ace had found the going tough at Flushing Meadows but the hottest day of the tournament so far saw Nadal spark into life.

It took him just an hour and 41 minutes to defeat Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2 6-4 6-1 and set up a quarter-final with ninth seed David Goffin or teenager Andrey Rublev.

The last time Nadal reached this stage in New York, he went on to win his second title, beating Novak Djokovic in the final.

"I think I played a solid match," said the 31-year-old. "I played with not many mistakes. I know Dolgopolov is a player who can play amazing shots but sometimes he can be a little bit unpredictable.

"I'm in the quarter-finals in New York, that's a positive result for me and I'm looking forward to trying to be playing better."

Nadal had struggled with his forehand and his return of serve in particular against Taro Daniel and Leonardo Mayer, losing the first set both times.

Creases

But here those creases had been ironed out and he broke the Dolgopolov serve in the third game.

Most of the attention on the Ukrainian this tournament has been on the scrutiny he is under following match-fixing allegations surrounding a clash in Winston-Salem two weeks ago.

But Dolgopolov, who insists he did nothing wrong, has not let that affect him on the court, and this was his first visit to the fourth round of a Grand Slam in six years.

He went into the clash knowing he had won two of his last three meetings with Nadal but struggled to make any impression on the Spaniard this time. The second set was more competitive than the first but, once the top seed made the breakthrough, he did not look back.

In the women's tournament, Karolina Pliskova believes she is benefiting from her near-miss after racing into the quarter-finals.

After saving match point in her third-round meeting with Zhang Shuai, the world number one needed just 46 minutes to beat Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-0.

Pliskova rated the performance as one of her best matches of the year, and said: "Hopefully I'm going to enjoy the tennis like I was doing today. I was not really enjoying myself the first three matches. I'd like to start enjoying it a little bit more."

With Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza knocked out on Sunday night by Petra Kvitova, this now appears to be a golden chance for the Czech to win her maiden Grand Slam title.

Irish Independent

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