SAN DIEGO, September 7, 2013 – For the first time since 1996, the number one and two seeds in both men’s and women’s singles will play in the finals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
Rafael Nadal sealed that statistic with his victory over Richard Gasquet of France in the second men’s semi-final on Saturday, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-2. Nadal plays Novak Djokovic on Monday. Serena Williams (1) and Victoria Azarenka (2) play on Sunday evening in the women’s final.
It seemed the Nadal vs. Gasquet semi would be a serious mismatch. Gasquet has never beaten Nadal in ten matches at world tour level. Gasquet, 27, who is just 15 days younger than Nadal, did beat the Spaniard when they played a regional tournament in France in 1999 as juniors when they were 13 years old.
It was Gasquet’s first semi-final appearance at the U.S. Open, and just his second overall at a major tournament. The first was at Wimbledon in 2007.
Gasquet was no pushover and he kept the match competitive. But it was apparent to most observers he isn’t playing consistently at the level of Nadal. Gasquet came within a whisker of winning the second set in a tiebreaker, putting in a phenomenal effort including one 26-shot rally. When he lost, it seemed to take some of the wind out of his sails and that was enough for Nadal.
Nadal has made a stunning comeback from injuries that kept him off the court. Since returning after knee surgery in February 2013 with a win at the Brazil Open, he has won nine singles titles and has won 11 of 12 tournament finals.
The match also suffered in comparison to the battle fans are still buzzing about, the semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka. That four-hour nail biter included the highlight of the tournament so far, the third game of the fifth set which lasted 21 minutes and played through 30 points.
Of his upcoming meeting with Djokovic, Nadal told Mary Jo Fernandez of CBS Sports, “It will be a tough final for me, I hope to be ready for it.” On the rest day, Nadal said he will “Relax, practice – not a lot, trying to work on the things I feel I need to work.”
Can Djokovic can recover for his final with Nadal in time to give it his best? He benefits from a change in the U.S. Open schedule which now gives the men a day of rest in between the semi-finals and the final. Previously the men played on back-to-back days.
Still, the match was a real grind for Djokovic. He lost in three sets at Wimbledon in July to Andy Murray after playing a similar challenging five set match against Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals there.
But tennis is very much a mental game, and Djokovic may use the memory of his loss to Murray to fuel his effort on Monday against Nadal to make sure it doesn’t happen to him again.
The remaining finals and television schedule is now set for Sunday and Monday.
Sunday, September 8 (All times Eastern Time)
12:30 p.m.: Men’s Doubles Final, ESPN2
Leander Paes (India) and Radek Stepanek (Czech Republic) vs. Alexander Peya (Austria) and Bruno Soares (Brazil)
4:30 p.m. (following NFL football coverage): Women’s Singles Final, CBS
Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka
The Tennis Channel will broadcast U.S. Open daily match encores from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
ESPN2 will broadcast SportsCenter live from the U.S. Open at 8:30 p.m.
Monday, September 9 (All times Eastern Time)
5 p.m.: Men’s Singles Final, CBS
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal
The Tennis Channel will broadcast U.S. Open daily match encores from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read Ringside Seat in Communities at Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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