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Rafael Nadal bounces Richard Gasquet in three sets to reach U.S. Open finals

Rafael Nadal won 102 total points to Richard Gasquet's 84. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images) Rafael Nadal won 102 total points to Richard Gasquet's 84. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

No. 2 Rafael Nadal defeated Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2 on Saturday in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, advancing to his 12th final in 13 tournaments this year. Nadal will play No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Monday in their record 37th meeting.

Gasquet played as well as he could through two sets and even became the first player to break Nadal's serve in six matches at the U.S. Open. But Gasquet couldn't overcome Nadal's pace and power. The Frenchman fell to 0-11 against his childhood rival.

Behind 35 winners to 24 unforced errors, Nadal continued his remarkable hard-court run. The Spaniard moved to 21-0 this year on what is widely considered his worst surface. Nadal also reached his 18th Grand Slam final, tying him for third with Pete Sampras.

Djokovic and Nadal have faced each other twice in the U.S. Open final, with Nadal winning in 2010 and Djokovic prevailing in 2011. Both men will be going for their second major title of the year.

Game-by-game analysis of Nadal's straightforward win over Gasquet after the jump.


Third set

7:22 p.m. ET | Rafael Nadal defeats Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2 to advance to the U.S. Open final.

Gasquet double-faults, and Nadal breaks for the win to advance to his 12th final in 13 events this year. He's now 21-0 on hard courts this year. Incredible.

7:15 p.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads 5-2*. 

This is how you lay down the hammer in a third set. Nadal hit 10 unforced errors in the first set, 12 in the second set and only two so far in the third set, while hitting 10 winners. To the extent that Gasquet is trying to believe he can mount a comeback of any sort, Nadal is doing everything he can to snuff it out.

7:08 p.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads 4-1*.

Gasquet is feeling all the aches and pains of his two weeks now, while Nadal looks as fresh as a daisy. The CBS commentary booth has gone silent, and even Bill Macatee acknowledges that this one has "a sense of inevitability." That it does.

https://twitter.com/hbryant42/status/376480117960482816

In the meantime, let's revisit the reasons why Gasquet and Nadal make this semifinal one of the quirkiest ones we've ever seen.

6:58 p.m. ET | Nadal breaks and holds, 3-0*.

https://twitter.com/jon_wertheim/status/376475233009430528

So it seems. All that sturm und drang, but it looks like we're going to get No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the finals on both sides of the draw.

A 93-mph backhand earns Gasquet a break point, but Nadal saves it with a big forehand and eventually holds. That was some red-line hitting from Gasquet in that game. This set could go quickly.

Meanwhile, let's check in with one of our favorite tweeters, Alison Riske, who had a great run to the fourth round this year:

https://twitter.com/Riske4rewards/status/376478235665911808

Fair enough.

While Riske's mind was boggled, Nadal just broke Gasquet with a series of brutal forehands. Gasquet's winded. He came into this match having played back-to-back five-setters, and Nadal's made him work hard in the first two sets.


Second set

6:42 p.m. ET | Nadal wins the second set, leads 6-4, 7-6 (1).

Nadal is 17-3 in Slam semifinals. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images) Rafael Nadal is 17-3 in Slam semifinals. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

1-0, Nadal. Gasquet starts with his first double fault of the match.

2-0, Nadal. A 23-shot rally, the longest of the match, ends when Gasquet tries to go hard up the line and misses wide.

2-1, Nadal. Bad backhand miss from Nadal. You don't usually see him miss a shot by yards.

3-1, Nadal. Gasquet dumps an easy forehand volley into the middle of the net. Can't miss a gimme like that.

4-1, Nadal. Now a 26-shot exchange and this time Gasquet does open up the rally with a huge backhand, but Nadal lunges to get it back and retakes control of the point.

5-1, Nadal. 119 mph serve from Nadal.

6-1, Nadal. Gasquet scrambles to track down a drop shot and Nadal is right there to get back the volley.

7-1, Nadal. Gasquet double-faults. Ouch.

6:34 p.m. ET | Nadal holds, tied 6-6.

Nadal with an easy hold at 15. Gasquet responds with an even easier hold at love, punctuated with an ace.

Stat to note: Nadal has hit 16 unforced errors off his forehand already. He has 21 unforced for the match.

Nadal holds and we're into a tiebreak.

6:19 p.m. ET | Gasquet holds, leads 5-4*.

Gasquet keeps the pressure on Nadal's service games. He gets to 15-30 thanks to a net rush that earns a passing shot wide. Then he cracks a forehand return on Nadal's second serve to earn two break points. But Nadal saves one with an ace and Gasquet duffs the return on the next. At deuce, Gasquet winds up for a backhand down the line but nets it. Nadal holds when Gasquet again sends a backhand long. Huge hold for Rafa -- Gasquet got tight on the big points there.

He responds with an easy hold, though. Pressure back on Nadal.

Richard Gasquet has not won a set off of Rafael Nadal since 2008. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images) Richard Gasquet has not won a set off of Rafael Nadal since 2008. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

6:11 p.m. ET | Gasquet holds, leads 4-3*.

Nadal holds at 30. Still, this has been much better from Gasquet. He's hitting much flatter now, and as the wind begins to swirl, the extra power is helping his ball cut through the court. He answers Nadal's hold with a quick hold at love. Still on serve.

6:04 p.m. ET | Gasquet breaks and holds, leads 3-2*.

So far, this set is playing out as a clone of the first set. An early break to Nadal, but Gasquet gets a look at break points and becomes the first man to break Nadal in 88 service games. More important than snapping Nadal's streak, the break gets Gasquet right back into this match. He's stepping in and hitting a much bigger ball now, while continuing to work the angles to get Nadal moving.

The Frenchies on Twitter are getting excited:

https://twitter.com/alizecornet/status/376465435837071360

5:52 p.m. ET | Nadal breaks, leads *2-1. 

Another early break for Nadal as he comes back from 30-0 down. Three unforced errors really gifted Nadal that game.

Gasquet comes back and holds at love. He's probably wondering where that was two games ago.


First set

5:41 p.m. ET | Nadal wins the first set 6-4.

Nadal holds and takes the set in 43 minutes.

A positive set of tennis for both men there:

Nadal: 1 ace, 1 double fault, 74 percent first serves, 13 winners, 10 unforced, 1-for-1 on break points, 6-for-7 at the net.

Gasquet: 1 ace, 0 double faults, 71 percent first serves, 9 winners, 8 unforced, 0-for-1 on break points, 9-for-11 at the net.

No sweat for Nadal in the first set. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images) No sweat for Nadal in the first set. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

5:37 p.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads *5-4.

The two trade holds and Nadal will serve for the first set. It's hard to fault Gasquet for anything he's doing so far. He's hit nine winners to six unforced errors, served at 71 percent and gotten himself to the net with success. The difference is that Nadal is 1-for-1 on break points and Gasquet is 0-for-1.

5:29 p.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads *4-3.

https://twitter.com/bgtennisnation/status/376456664935051264

Can't disagree with Gilbert here. Gasquet isn't playing poorly and the scoreline is tight despite Nadal's break lead. But with Nadal full of confidence and being as aggressive as he's been on hard courts, there isn't much Gasquet can do put him off his game.

That doesn't mean it's not fun to watch, though. They're both using all the angles on the court and Gasquet's flair has already taken flight.

https://twitter.com/TomPerrotta/status/376457008032923648

5:18 p.m. ET | Nadal holds, leads *3-2.

Nadal hasn't been broken in his last 83 service games. Now Gasquet has a break point after a smart chip-and-charge off a Nadal second serve, and he wins the volley battle at the net. I like that move from Gasquet. At least he's trying to come up with some solutions so he's not forced to win all his points from the back of the court.

Nadal saves break point with a big forehand that lands out of Gasquet's reach and he holds for the 84th straight time. But, again, some positives in that game from Gasquet. He also took a huge crack with his backhand on a short ball to win a point. He really needs to pounce on anything short. He's not going to be able to rally with Nadal.

Sean Connery, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, and Richard Branson watch the men's semifinal. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images) Sean Connery, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Richard Branson watch the men's semifinal. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

5:09 p.m. ET | Nadal breaks, leads *2-1.

Nadal won the toss and chose to receive, and then he breaks. I hate to say it, but there was very little doubt of that. Already you can see the matchup problem for Gasquet. His backhand is his best shot, and he'll be hard-pressed to hit it in his strike zone because of how high Nadal's forehand kicks up. It's the same problem Roger Federer has and we all know how that head-to-head series has gone.

All that is to say, this match shouldn't be the four-hour epic we saw in the first men's semifinal, where Novak Djokovic came back to beat Stanislas Wawrinka  2-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Gasquet gets on the board with a hold at 15.

Here's a picture of Nadal doing some promotional work for Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics. It wasn't enough. Tokyo won the bid, which probably means Kimiko Date-Krumm isn't retiring anytime soon.

Nadal all smiles on Friday.(Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) Nadal all smiles on Friday.(Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)


Pre-match

No. 2 Rafael Nadal and eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet will meet in the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Saturday. CBS will televise the match, which will follow the semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka on Arthur Ashe Stadium and will not start before 2:50 p.m.

Nadal, 27, has made the semifinals or better in his last five U.S. Open appearances (he didn't play last year), including a title in 2010. The Spaniard is 20-0 on hard courts this year, and he's yet to drop serve in 67 games at the U.S. Open. He's lost only one set in New York, against No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round. The only other seed Nadal has faced is No. 19 Tommy Robredo, a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 demolition in the quarterfinals.

Gasquet, 27, who is 15 days younger than Nadal, will be contesting his first semifinal at the U.S. Open and second overall at a major (2007 Wimbledon). The Frenchman won back-to-back five-setters to get here, outlasting No. 10 Milos Raonic in the fourth round and No. 4 David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.

Nadal is 10-0 against Gasquet, including 4-0 on hard courts. But Gasquet does have one big victory over Nadal: at a prestigious under-14 tournament in Tarbes, France, in 1999.

“I didn’t know him when I played him when I was 13 years old,” Gasquet said after defeating Ferrer in the quarterfinals. “He was already fighting a lot, already running so much. I remember I told my father after, ‘He’s a big fighter.’ I didn’t lie; I was true. He is one of the biggest players in history.”

Gasquet has seen footage from his 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory on YouTube, which is most notable for how quickly the now-tic-laden Nadal plays between points.

“I can see I’m winning against him, so I don’t believe it sometimes,” Gasquet said with a laugh.

Gasquet said it was nice to beat Nadal at the junior tournament but that “it’s better to win on the pro [tour], and I didn’t [in their first 10 matches]. But life is long, huh? We are only 27 years old. So why not? We will see.”

Here is a clip from that match:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzKuv4j67aw

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