The Spaniard had just demolished his Russian teenage opponent in a tidy one hour, 37 minutes, and Rafael Nadal was asked what he would be doing the remainder of Wednesday evening, when Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro would square off late that night in their quarterfinal match to determine Nadal’s opponent in the U.S. Open semis.
“I’m gonna be having dinner probably,” Nadal said, before breaking into laughter.
Nadal, 31, made quick work of 19-year-old Andrey Rublev on Arthur Ashe Stadium court Wednesday afternoon — a methodical 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 thumping — where the roof was closed and Rublev couldn’t keep up with Nadal’s turbo-charged forehands or cross-court blasts.
With his semifinal slot confirmed, Nadal then withstood another round of Federer questions in his post-match press conference. Before this year’s Open began, the entire tennis world was abuzz with the possibility of the two elite players – the Spaniard and the Swiss – colliding in the semifinal, a scenario all the more appealing since Nadal and Federer have never met at the Open during their illustrious careers.
“I don’t want to look like I’m gonna be his boyfriend,” Nadal, a two-time Open champion, said in Wednesday’s presser, when asked what he most admired about Federer on and off the court. “We don’t want to talk these kind of things before important match.” Nadal’s comments cracked up the packed media room, which included former Open champ Boris Becker.
The Ashe crowd Wednesday was somewhat more vocal than during Nadal’s fourth-round victory, and it was heavily-partisan toward the Spaniard, although one older gentleman sitting about 20 rows up in one corner crowed for Rublev after every point in the third set.
Nadal needed 23 minutes to win the first set and encountered little resistance all afternoon. He smacked only four aces, but Nadal made just 20 unforced errors to Rublev’s 43. In the third set, Nadal broke Rublev in the fifth game when the Russian, already down 3-1, double-faulted to lose the game. Nadal, on serve for the final game of the match, watched Rublev smack a backhand into the net on match point to end his admirable Open run. Nadal, meanwhile, moves on and will play a former Open champion regardless of the outcome of Wednesday night’s match.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s Roger or Juan Martin. The end of the day, we can be thinking or talking about what I have to do or what I don’t have to do. Sport is not that difficult. The players who play better that day is the player that’s gonna have better chances,” Nadal said.