Rafael Nadal would relish the prospect of facing Roger Federer in the US Open semi-finals for the first time as both players close in on a last four clash at Flushing Meadows. The pair are just one match away from meeting for a place in the final after respective wins over Alexandr Dolgopolov and Philipp Kohlschreiber in New York.
World number one Nadal, the 2010 and 2013 champion, dropped just seven games on his way to reaching the quarter-finals where he will face 19-year-old Andrey Rublev, who will be bidding to become the young man to reach the last eight at the US Open for 16 years. The Russian beat number nine seed David Goffin in three sets as his best run in a grand slam continued.
Federer, meanwhile, was similarly impressive in seeing off German Kohlschreiber in straight sets, despite needing treatment after the second set on a long-running back problem, to book a clash with Juan Martin del Potro in a repeat of the 2009 final. Despite enjoying a rivalry stretching back 37 matches, including 12 major finals, Federer and Nadal have never previously met at the semi-final stage at the US Open, but that could end this week.
Speaking prior to the tournament, Nadal admitted he was hopeful of an "easier" opponent one step away from the final but with just one match separating him from his fourth meeting of the year with Federer the 31-year-old has softened his stance.
"I gonna repeat. You said what I say after, and I gonna repeat the same thing," he told reporters. "You can ask me about that in two days if I am here with victory, and I will answer you with a lot of great pleasure if that happen. I will be very happy to be in that semi-final if that happen.
"But now always the same. Now I have Rublev in front. Maximum respect for him and going to be a tough one. He played already great matches, winning against Dimitrov, against Goffin in straight sets. Is not a moment to talk about Federer for me."
Five-time champion Federer was not directly asked about a possible clash with Nadal but has previously described the idea of 38th match against the Balearic Islander, whom he has already beaten three times in 2017, as a "nice prospect". The Swiss did offer some praise of his great rival however, labelling his forehand as the best in the sport.
"I think Rafa's for me is maybe number one," he responded, when asked about Del Potro's forehand. "It depends on what surface we're talking about. But just throughout the career, I think Rafa's is extremely high, if not my favourite one."