NEW YORK (AFP) – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have moved closer to a first-ever U.S. Open meeting with second-round triumphs, while women’s top seeds Serena Williams and Victoria Azaranka also advanced.
Spanish second seed Nadal, a 12-time Grand Slam winner who has won nine titles since ending a seven-month injury layoff in February, beat Brazilian qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0 in 92 minutes at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I was solid with my serve,” said Nadal, who hit 69 percent of his first serves. “I played well. I started a little slower but when the match was coming on I felt I played better and better. I am trying to play more aggressive.”
Swiss 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, who at the seventh seed is in his lowest spot at the U.S. Open since 2002, fired 37 winners in beating Argentina’s 48th-ranked Carlos Berlocq, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 after 95 minutes.
“I was pretty comfortable out there, so that was a good sign,” Federer said. “It’s one of those matches I expect myself to win in straight sets and gain confidence in the process. All those things happened so I’m pleased about it.”
Federer, who swept the New York hardcourt crowns from 2004-2008, and Nadal, whose 2010 U.S. Open title completed a career Grand Slam, could meet for the first time at the U.S. Open in the quarter-finals.
“I hope I’m going to be there,” Federer said. “The biggest mistake I can do is focus on Rafa right now. Clearly I would love a match with Rafa.”
On the women’s side, defending champion Williams downed 77th-ranked Galina Voskoboeva 6-3, 6-0, and Belarus second seed Azarenka beat Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak 6-3, 6-1.
But Italian fourth seed Sara Errani made a tearful exit, the 2012 U.S. Open semi-finalist and French Open runner-up falling to friend and compatriot Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-1.
“It was difficult,” Errani said. “The worst thing was the ‘fight.’ Normally it’s the best thing I do on the court and today it was not good. I don’t know why. I think it’s the pressure. Everything was very difficult for me.”
After being eliminated in the second round last month at Wimbledon in his earliest Grand Slam exit since the 2003 French Open, Federer is going for more than a simple showdown with Nadal in the Flushing Meadows fortnight.
“One match against Rafa is not going to make my season or going to make me super confident. It needs to be more than that,” Federer said.
“It might take a few matches and next thing you know you’re playing really good tennis again and close to playing some really great tennis. That’s where I am right now and that’s why every match is really important to me now.”
Eight-time French Open champion Nadal, 27, will next risk his career-best 17-match hardcourt win streak against Croatian Ivan Dodig, who is 1-1 all-time against Nadal and upset him in their most recent meeting in the second round at Montreal in 2011 by winning a third-set tie-breaker.
“I have not a very good memory of him in Montreal. I lost a very close match,” Nadal said. “He’s a dangerous player. I have to be playing very well and that’s what I’m going to try.”
Federer, 32, next faces Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who defeated U.S. 26th seed Sam Querrey, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 6-4. Federer won both of their prior meetings, in the 2011 second round at Paris and Wimbledon.
Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer and French eighth seed Richard Gasquet kept rolling toward their own potential quarter-final by beating countrymen, Ferrer dispatching Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2 and Gasquet dumping Stephane Robert 6-3, 7-5, 7-5.
World number one Williams, who would become the oldest U.S. Open women’s champion at 31 if she repeats, advanced her quest for a 17th Grand Slam title and fifth Open crown with ease. She faces Russian-born Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova next.
“Galina played very well in the first set. You can see how much she has improved,” Williams said. “But I played pretty well myself.”
Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, who beat Williams earlier this month in the final at Cincinnati, booked a match against French 26th seed Alize Cornet for a spot in the last 16.
Photo Credit: AFP/Timothy Clary