Lawn Tennis: Nadal Sent Packing by Youzhny's Resurgence
Newman, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
For most of this year the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has dominated the tennis landscape, but in the space of a few hours here on Wednesday night the horizons changed. By the time Arthur Ashe Stadium had emptied, Nadal was on his way home while the man he had supplanted as Federer's greatest rival, Andy Roddick, had underlined his renaissance with a for midable show of strength against Lleyton Hewitt.
Nadal's 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Mikhail Youzhny was the shock of the tournament so far, if not the whole year. Having swept all before him onclayandbeen denied only by Federer at Wimbledon, the Spaniard was a firm favourite to reach his third successive Grand Slam final.
Yet despite what he considered his best performance at Flushing Meadows, Nadal was beaten by an opponent playing his first major quarter-final. Cleverly changing the pace and angle of his shots and attacking the net when the opportunity arose, the 24-year-old Youzhny delivered his finest display since the 2002 Davis Cup final, when he came back from two sets down to beat France's Paul-Henri Mathieu in the decisive rubber to give Russia their first title.
It was the world No 54's fourth defeat of a seed here this year and his third successive routing of a Spaniard, following victories over David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo. He went on to complete an extraordinary day by partnering Leos Freidl to victory over the Bryan brothers, the world's best doubles team.
Youzhny, who reached No 15 in the world rankings last January but has suffered with knee and back injuries, put the result down to hard work. Nadal hailed the Russian's "unbelievable tennis" and felt that there had been nothing wrong with his own game other than an uncharacteristic failure to play the big points well.
Nadal refused to offer the surface as an excuse, but he has yet to show his best on hard courts and has had a mediocre summer on the American circuit. Nevertheless it would be wrong to read too much into this defeat. Nadal swept all before him on clay and made a phenomenal effort to conquer grass, turning up to practise at Queen's Club 24 hours after lifting the title at Roland Garros. …