This was supposed to be the night when the U.S. Open witnessed its first ever meeting of one of tennis’ all-time great rivalries between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Instead, another Spaniard, Tommy Robredo, had other ideas and eviscerated record Grand Slam winner Federer in straight sets to earn a spot in the last eight at Flushing Meadows for the first time.
To do so, the 31-year-old had to overcome a 10-0 losing record against Federer. A similar reversal of fortunes will be required against second seed Nadal. Robredo has yet to beat Nadal in six attempts and, indeed, has only ever taken one set off of the man from Mallorca.
That Robredo is even at this point is warranting of huge credit, given that injury had seen the former world No. 5 slip down to close to 500 in the rankings just over a year ago. He is now back up to 22 and still climbing.
“Well, for me, as you said, it's an amazing year, especially because one year ago I was 100 something, trying to come back,” he said after beating Federer. “I wasn't sure if my leg will be perfect or not. You have the doubts, no, that if your body's going to respond, and your tennis, if you're going to get the confidence back. In the end, in a sport like tennis, you need to be healthy, you need to be also playing good, and also this confidence.”
Nadal too is happy to see his compatriot back and believes he will present a tough obstacle to overcome.
“I'm happy to see him come back after injury,” he said. “He’s playing a very good tournament, he will come to my [next] match with confidence, and I hope I will be ready.”
Nadal should also come into the last-eight matchup with plenty of confidence after enjoying a remarkable return from his own injury problems this year. Following the continuation of his dominance at Roland Garros, the 27-year-old’s knees have proved able to prosper on the rigors of hard courts having won in both Montreal and Cincinnati before heading to New York
While he lost his first set of this US Open against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last round, before going on to win comfortably in four sets, Nadal has remarkably yet to drop his serve in the tournament.
“My serve is working just amazing,” Nadal said smiling. “I think I didn't lose the serve because I played good points from the baseline.”
Prediction: Robredo’s record against both Federer against Nadal is no coincidence. Robredo is a great competitor but lacks the weapons to trouble the very best in the world. While he was able to gain a first win over Federer, it owed much to the Swiss star's own failings. It is difficult to imagine Nadal, in fine form, being so generous. In truth, it would be an impressive achievement for Robredo to merely take a set off of his illustrious opponent.
Where to watch: The US Open quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo will get underway following the completion of the women’s singles quarterfinal, featuring Daniela Hantuchova and Victoria Azarenka, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a live stream available on ESPN3.