Former American tennis star James Blake described Rafael Nadal as "incredibly inspiring" after going from playing Nadal on Arthur Ashe to interviewing him on the same court. Blake, a former top-5 player, clashed Nadal seven times during his career.
The first meeting between the two came at the 2005 US Open. Back then, Blake defeated a teenage Nadal in four sets. On Saturday, 36-year-old Nadal defeated Richard Gasquet 6-0 6-1 7-5 to progress into the US Open last-16.
On-court, Blake conducted interview with Nadal. "17 years ago, I played you on Ashe and now I’m interviewing you because you are still one of, if not the, greatest in the world. Incredibly inspiring @RafaelNadal," Blake tweeted.
17 years ago, I played you on Ashe and now I’m interviewing you because you are still one of, if not the, greatest in the world.
Nadal demolished Gasquet
After struggling in his first two matches, Nadal looked much more convincing in the third round versus Gasquet.
Nadal got off to a very good start, breaking Gasquet three times to win the first set without a dropped game. In the second set, Nadal looked sharp as he broke Gasquet twice to open a comfortable two-set lead. After winning the first two sets, Nadal started the third set with a 2-0 lead.
Down by two sets and a break, Gasquet refused to quit as she broke back Nadal in the fourth game. But Nadal kept his focus as he broke Gasquet again in the 11th game, before serving out for the match in the following game.
"My best match in the tournament. Easy to say that because the other day was tough. But, yeah, important improvement. But I need to keep going. It's a good victory for me. Straight sets for the first time. Third set [was] a challenge.
He increased the level," Nadal said after beating Gasquet. "I went through some difficult moments. That's something that is good, that I went through that and [was] safe [in those] moments with positive feelings. Happy to be in the fourth round, without a doubt." Nadal plays Frances Tiafoe next.