Federer and Nadal on course for classic clash

But veteran stars experience contrasting fortunes in third-round wins at the US Open

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer edged closer to a US Open semi-final blockbuster yesterday morning (Singapore time) as controversial Italian Fabio Fognini was kicked out for a vile, misogynistic tirade at a female umpire.

Nadal, 31, saw off Argentine lucky loser Leonardo Mayer 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the third round, taking his record over the world No. 59 from Buenos Aires to 4-0.

He will face Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov, against whom he is 6-2, for a place in the quarter-finals.

Five-time champion Federer brushed aside 31st seed Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 to take his career record against the Spaniard, playing a 63rd successive Grand Slam, to 13-0.

Next up for Federer is Philipp Kohlschreiber, whom he leads 11-0.

Nadal had dropped the first set of his second-round match against Japan's Taro Daniel before winning in four.

Yesterday morning was almost a carbon copy with the 15-time Major winner unable to convert any of six break-points in the opener.

But the match turned in the 10-minute seventh game of the second set when, on his 14th break-point of the encounter, Nadal finally smashed through.

"It was tough. It took 14 break-points - that's not a good figure. But I was there mentally and fought a lot at the right moments," said Nadal.

Federer had needed back-to-back five-setters to defeat Frances Tiafoe and Mikhail Youzhny in his first two rounds.

However, he swept past Lopez yesterday morning to reach the fourth round for the 16th time.

"I'm very happy to get through. It's a great feeling to play out here," said Federer.

"I struggled in the first two rounds but, tonight, I played a very clean match."

Meanwhile, Fognini was kicked out of the tournament for making foul-mouthed comments to female umpire Louise Engzell during his first-round loss to Stefano Travaglia.

Fognini and compatriot Simone Bolelli had reached the third round of the men's doubles but tournament organisers axed him from the event.

Fognini, the world No. 26, was also fined US$24,000 (S$32,500).

“It was tough. It took 14 break-points — that’s not a good figure.”Rafael Nadal on his win over Leonardo Mayer

In the women's draw, top seed Karolina Pliskova saved a match-point to defeat China's Zhang Shuai, hanging on to her world No. 1 spot in the process.

Pliskova, the US Open runner-up last year, triumphed 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, but was forced to save a match-point in the 10th game of the second set and recover from a break down in the decider.

"I was match-point down and I thought I haven't tried many forehand winners down the line. That's what I did. I may not have got another chance," said the 25-year-old, who will next face Jennifer Brady of the United States.

Brady has just seven wins on the Tour this year, but all have come at the Grand Slams.

Had she lost yesterday morning, Pliskova would also have been guaranteed to lose her world No. 1 ranking to either Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza or Elina Svitolina.

Fourth seed Svitolina of Ukraine stayed in contention with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Shelby Rogers of the US.

Russia's Daria Kasatkina reached the last 16 of a Major for the first time by seeing off French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the 12th seed, 6-3, 6-2. - AFP

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