Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to a potential Sunday showdown with Roger Federer after advancing to the semi-finals of the US Open for the third year in succession.
Nadal beat fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-5 6-3 6-4 in their quarter-final at Flushing Meadows and will now face Russia's Mikhail Youzhny in Saturday's semi-finals.
Youzhny came from two sets to one down to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-3 6-3 in Thursday's other quarter-final, while five-time champion Federer faces Novak Djokovic in the remaining semi-final.
Nadal had won all ten of his previous meetings with eighth seed Verdasco, losing just three sets in the process, although two of those did come in an epic five-set semi-final at the Australian Open in 2009 which lasted a record five hours and 14 minutes.
However, it was Verdasco who jumped out to a surprise early lead in the opening set on a chilly, windy night in New York, Nadal losing his serve for the first time in the tournament after 62 successful holds.
Verdasco could not make the most of his chance though, committing two double faults in a row to give back the break and then getting broken to love in the 12th game as Nadal took the set after 59 minutes.