| David Nalbandian makes a return to Roger Federer at Flushing Meadow on Thursday. (AFP)
New York: Wimbledon champion Roger Federer’s US Open run stuttered to a halt on Thursday when he was bounced by his Argentine bogeyman but Kim Clijsters was in fine form as rain clouds finally cleared from Flushing Meadow.
Federer, seeded second here on the back of his grasscourt Grand Slam triumph, fell once again to David Nalbandian — this time 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 3-6 in the fourth round. The stocky 21-year-old from Cordoba has now beaten Federer all five times they have met on the Tour — three times this year and twice in 2002.
“I guess I am struggling against him,” Federer smiled wryly. “I don’t know what to comment on this. I am trying to figure out how to beat him. He likes my game, that’s all I can say about it.”
No. 13 seed Nalbandian, himself a finalist at Wimbledon last year, was also at a loss to explain his hold over the stylish Swiss player.
“I like playing against him, what can I say'” he laughed. “I like his game... I don’t know exactly why.”
Clijsters reached her first US Open semi-final with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-4 victory over France’s Amelie Mauresmo. The Belgian top seed will face former champion and third seed Lindsay Davenport for a place in Saturday’s final after the American ousted Argentine Paola Suarez 6-4, 6-0. “It’s definitely a great feeling,” Clijsters grinned.
Her fellow-Belgian and second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne was also feeling great having booked her spot in the last four with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Anastasia Myskina. Myskina had earlier in the day completed her fourth-round victory against Mary Pierce.
The Russian seventh seed won that contest — which spanned four days — 7-6, 6-1 but was no match for Henin-Hardenne under the floodlights.
French Open champion Henin-Hardenne will face Jennifer Capriati after the American also beat a “second-hand” opponent to complete an expected semi-final line-up. Both matches will feature a Belgium versus US contest.
Italy’s Francesca Schiavone had also played earlier on Thursday, completing a 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 win over Japanese Ai Sugiyama.
Like Myskina, Schiavone could not duplicate that form later in the day and sixth seeded Capriati won 6-1, 6-3 in straightforward fashion.
Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt underlined his revival in form, beating Thai Paradorn Srichaphan 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in a fourth-round clash. The 2001 US Open champion has endured a poor Grand Slam year and this result gave him his best run at a major in 2003.
Hewitt next meets third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero after the Spaniard beat American Todd Martin 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3. Federer, who also lost to Nalbandian in the final of the junior event here in 1998, slowly lost his way on a dank Centre Court, bowing out in two hours 50 minutes. In the last eight Nalbandian will face crowd favourite Younes El Aynaoui.
The Moroccan, who is developing a cult following in New York, reached his second straight US Open quarter final by beating former world No. 1 Carlos Moya 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
The 31-year-old cradled his racket and rocked it like a baby after striking a winning backhand on match point — a reference to the birth of his third son earlier this month. Guillermo Coria fought off Jonas Bjorkman to win their fourth-round match 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 and earn a quarter final against top seed Andre Agassi. Andy Roddick, will meet Sjeng Schalken — a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over German Rainer Schuettler.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi’s campaign to defend their men’s doubles crown ended in the quarter finals when they lost 2-6, 2-6 to the sixth-seeded French pair of Fabrice Santoro and Mikael Llodra on Friday.
on Thursday, the top seeds had accounted for the Argentine pair of Lucas Arnold and Mariano Hood, the No. 15 seeds, 7-6 (10-8), 6-2 in the third round.
In their pre-quarter final match, Santoro and Llodra notched up an impressive 6-3, 6-3 win over ninth seeds Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe. (Reuters)