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Nadal from the get-go

Roddick never stood a chance against No. 2 seed

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NEW YORK -- Defending champion Rafael Nadal set up a meeting with fourth-ranked Andy Murray in the semifinals of the U.S. Open by overwhelming home favourite Andy Roddick in straight sets in the last eight on Friday.

Whipping passing shots from all angles and returning superbly, the No. 2-seeded Nadal beat No. 21 Roddick 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the semis at Flushing Meadows for the fourth consecutive year.

The Spanish star compiled a stunning 22-0 edge in forehand winners and broke Roddick's powerful serve six times.

"It was quick. Obviously, it was a combination of things that probably weren't going to work out today," said Roddick, who had trouble pushing off on his fatigued legs and was massaged by a trainer during a medical timeout in the third set. "It was evident pretty early that he was in full control."

Nadal took the first four games against the 2003 U.S. Open champion thanks to two breaks in the opening 18 minutes, then took 16 of the last 17 points to close the second set. In the third set, Roddick had both of his legs massaged by a trainer during a medical timeout.

"The beginning of the match was really important," Nadal said. "Andy had a really tough match yesterday. Probably, he was tired. Sorry for him."

Seeking his 11th Grand Slam title, Nadal has yet to drop a set heading into today's semifinal against Britain's Murray, who beat No. 28 John Isner 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) earlier Friday.

The other semifinal was set up by Thursday's quarter-finals and will feature No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 3 Roger Federer, who has won five of his record 16 Grand Slam championships at the U.S. Open. For the second time in the last three major tournaments, the final foursome is filled by the top four men in the game -- but it hasn't happened at the U.S. Open since 1992.

"They're pretty firmly the best players in the world right now," Roddick said. "They certainly deserve the numbers next to their names."

Djokovic is 62-2 with nine titles in 2011, including at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. His first loss this season came when Federer ended Djokovic's 43-match winning streak in a thrilling French Open semifinal.

Nadal has won 12 of 16 matches against Murray, including a win in the semifinals of the French Open and Wimbledon this year.

Murray figures to face more of the same trouble in New York if Nadal plays as well as he did Friday.

"It will be a very tough match for me," Nadal said, "and hopefully for him, too."

The exits by Roddick and Isner -- with first lady Michelle Obama sitting in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium -- mean this will be the 32nd Grand Slam tournament in a row without a male champion from the United States, extending the country's longest drought, which dates to Roddick's 2003 triumph in New York.

Not all that long ago, the 29-year-old Roddick wasn't even sure whether he'd be able to compete at the U.S. Open this year because of a torn abdominal muscle. Struggling with various injuries, the former No. 1-ranked player has endured a tough season, dropping outside the top 20 for the first time in a decade.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2011 C7

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