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Nadal a step closer to title

sports Updated: Sep 11, 2010 01:37 IST

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal got his serve in gear after being broken for the only time in five matches to beat No. 8 Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday night in the first all-Spanish quarterfinal in U.S. Open history.

Nadal's streak of 62 consecutive holds of serve ended in Thursday's third game, when he Verdasco broke him at love go ahead 2-1. Nadal wouldn't face another break point the rest of the match, though, and won the last 13 points he served in the second set. And now Nadal is headed to a third consecutive semifinal at Flushing Meadows. Nadal never has reached a final in New York, losing at the semifinal stage to Andy Murray in 2008, and to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro last year.

On Saturday, Nadal trying to complete a career Grand Slam at age 24 by earning a U.S. Open trophy to put alongside the eight total he owns from the French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open — will face 12th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia for a spot in the final.

Roger Federer will face Novak Djokovic in Saturday's other semifinal; they won their quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Youzhny's only previous trip to the semifinals at any Grand Slam tournament came at the 2006 U.S. Open, and he made it there by upsetting Nadal in the quarterfinals. Youzhny beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in four hours."Maybe I was just a bit luckier than him," Youzhny said.

Now everyone will be thinking past the semifinals, and ahead to Sunday's final, and the tantalizing prospect of No. 1 Nadal vs. No. 2 Federer.

First, of course, Federer must beat Djokovic, and Nadal must beat Youzhny.