Diego Schwartzman may have been the smallest player in 25 years to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals but gave Rafa Nadal a big fight and forced the Spaniard to grind out a 6-4 7-5 6-2 win on Wednesday to reach the last four at Flushing Meadows.
With Roger Federer and 2018 champion Novak Djokovic having already made exits, Nadal’s path to a fourth U.S. Open trophy has been cleared of familiar hurdles.
But Schwartzman reminded Nadal that danger can lurk everywhere, even from an opponent he had beaten in all seven previous meetings and only lost two sets.
“I had some mistakes of course but I am super happy the way I accepted the challenge,” said Nadal, who needed almost three hours to see off Schwartzman.
“I just keep going point-by-point and here I am in the semi-finals and that is super important for me. It means everything.”
Schwartzman, who often trains with Nadal, had the second seed’s full respect after brushing past sixth seed Alexander Zverev in the previous round.
Nadal now faces big-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini, who ground out a 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-6(5) over France’s Gael Monfils, in the semi-finals.