CINCINNATI -- No. 7 seed Mardy Fish notched the biggest win of his year Friday in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
Though he has beaten top five players and made it deep into Masters/1000 events several times before, the win still felt like new territory for Fish. This was a match he was considered to have a great chance in (especially given Nadal's long match Thursday, his doubles later that day, his two burnt fingers on his right hand, and just his general malaise), and Fish seized the opportunity.
Fish will face No. 4 Andy Murray in Saturday's first semifinal. Murray defeated No. 10 Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-3. Fish has won his last three matches against Murray, all in third set tiebreakers.
After digging out of a 15-40 hole in the opening game of the match (saving two break points on second serves), Fish was able to get an early advantage breaking Nadal's serve for 3-1, a break advantage he never yielded.
In the second set, Fish broke Nadal's serve in the fifth game, and held onto his serve with relative ease the rest of the way, facing only one break point during a tough service game at 4-3.
Fish, who clinches the US Open Series victory with the win, is into his sixth career Masters/1000 semifinal. He is 6-0 lifetime in Masters/1000 quarterfinals, and was the runner up in Cincinnati last year.
Fish hit 32 winners and 18 unforced errors in the match, numbers that compared extremely favorably to Nadal's 10 winners and 20 unforced errors.
After the match, I asked Nadal (two of whom's fingers were badly burned by a hot plate at a restaurant earlier in the week) about why he was not trying more to dictate play on the fast courts of Cincinnati.
Nadal gave an uncharacteristically long, in depth response:
SBN: Seems like when you've had hard court success you've been more aggressive. You haven't hit that many winners here in Cincinnati in this match or against Verdasco.
Rafael Nadal: When I am having success in hard court, in grass court, in clay court, is when I am playing well. Doesn't matter. If I am playing well, I can play aggressive. If I am not playing well, I cannot play aggressive because I don't have enough good feelings to do it.
If I am playing bad on clay, I don't win, I lose. If I am playing bad on grass, I lose. That's the sport. You play well, you have more chances to win; you play bad, you have more chances to lose.
I know seems like it's too simple, but is very simple. Tennis is a simple game. You don't have to think a lot what's going on. The thing is I have to work hard to be fast, to be enough fast to come inside the court and take the ball early.
I have to be ready to play with high intensity and with my best rhythm for four hours. I have to be ready to defend well and I have to be ready to be focused and for sure prepared well mentally to play the important moments of the matches.
So I didn't here. For example, in the break point of the second set with the 4 3 I had the big mistake with the forehand to the net with the second serve. So that's the chances when the match change.
I had mistake in the first ball, so that's what cannot happen if I want to have success in New York. That's what I going to try, and that's the sport.
And that's the end of Nadal's US Open preparation. Nadal said later that his coach (and uncle) Toni Nadal will arrive in the States Tuesday to begin preparations for his title defense in earnest.
Stay tuned to SB Nation's coverage of the 2011 US Open Series at SBNation.com as well as on Twitter, @DailyForehand .