Nadal ‘in good shape’ after entering semi-finals in US Open

New York: Rafael Nadal said he felt ‘in good shape’ after advancing to the semi-finals of the US Open with a battling 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 win over Argentine 20th seed Diego Schwartzman.

Second seed Nadal, a three-time champion in New York, will play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini for a berth in the final after the 18-time Grand Slam winner overcame a gritty performance from the 5ft 7in (1.70m) Schwartzman.

The Spaniard needed the best part of three hours to record an eighth straight win over two-time US Open quarter-finalist Schwartzman in a match that finished early Thursday morning.

He received treatment to his left forearm early in the third set but swiftly allayed any injury fears, after a knee injury forced him to retire during last year’s semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro.

‘I’m feeling good. Today was very humid day, very heavy day. I had some cramps in the end of the second and first five games, six games of the third. And then I take some salt, that’s all, and then was over,’ Nadal said.

‘The body is in good shape, I think. No big problems. Just of course now a little bit tired, long day, 1:30 (a.m.). Need to go to sleep. But I really believe that I’m going to be in good shape.’

Nadal rolled through the first three rounds untested, a run that included a second-round walkover, but the 33-year-old feels stiffer competition in his past two matches — against Marin Cilic and Schwartzman — has left him primed for another shot at the US Open title.

‘Today I make a step forward, in my opinion. That match give me confidence. Two matches in a row against two tough opponents. That’s a moment to increase a little bit more the level, and I really believe that I can do it,’ Nadal said.

The win over Schwartzman sent Nadal through to a 33rd Grand Slam semi-final — third most in history behind Roger Federer (45) and Novak Djokovic (36) — as he reached the last four in New York for the eighth time. Nadal is the only former major champion left in the men’s field following the elimination of Federer and Djokovic, leaving him as the clear frontrunner in his pursuit of a 19th major title.

‘I just won a very important match for me, and it is the moment to enjoy this victory. Tomorrow afternoon I’m going to start to think about what’s the plan for after tomorrow,’ he said.

‘Today is the moment to enjoy that feeling of being in semi-finals of a Grand Slam again. “I achieved the four semi-finals of the four Grand Slams this year, and that’s a lot. Very, very happy for that.’

Nadal crushed 35 winners and broke serve eight times to find a way to win against an opponent who refused to back down. Many times, Nadal’s unrelenting groundstrokes typically push players further behind the baseline as a match wears on. But Schwartzman tried to go blow-for-blow with the second seed, playing aggressively whenever possible.

Nadal sprinted to a 4-0 lead in the opener. But once Schwartzman found his rhythm in the baseline rallies, he was able to engage with the World No. 2. And seemingly out of nowhere, Schwartzman got both breaks back to get to 4-4, earning two break points to give himself a chance to serve for the set. But Nadal hung in there to avoid losing a third consecutive service game.

Quickly, the 18-time Slam titlist earned another break to move to 5-1. But Schwartzman never went away, making an amazing series of gets at 15-0, finally shoveling a forehand winner down the line before raising both arms to get the crowd involved.In the moment, it seemed like Schwartzman was simply enjoying his time in the world’s biggest tennis stadium. But it showed that he was giving Nadal all he can handle, again recovering both breaks to return to 5-5 as chants of ‘Olé’ rang out through the New York night. The Spaniard however won the final four games of the match, punctuating his triumph with a big roar.