Rain frustrates Nadal and Gonzalez

Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez were held up by rain as they attempted to finish their US Open quarter-final at Flushing Meadows.

Play was twice suspended at Arthur Ashe Stadium as rain disrupted the US Open for the first time in 11 days of play at the last Grand Slam championship of the year.

Yet after nearly three hours of delays, with many fans having remained on site and even the ball boys lined up on court and ready to resume, officials announced that play had been called for the night with third seed Nadal of Spain leading the Chilean 11th seed 7-6 (7-4) and leading a second set tie-break 3-2.

Nadal led their head-to-head record 6-3, winning the last five encounters that had included the 2008 Olympic final and this year's Australian Open fourth round.

The opening set had been high octane stuff as both men blasted forehands at each other, Nadal getting the better of the early skirmishes as he moved Gonzalez from side to side on the baseline but the match staying on serve.

The Chilean had won just one point in the first five Nadal service games but he had the Spaniard in trouble at 6-5 up and 30-all, ripping a backhand deep down the line for a set point on the third seed's serve.

Gonzalez saw it slip from his grasp as he netted a forehand but he got another chance when pressure from his backhand saw Nadal respond with a netted forehand of his own.

With the set on the line Nadal went on the offensive pushing Gonzalez at full stretch to try and reach a backhand as another set point was saved. From there, Nadal pushed on to win the game and send the set into a tie-break.

After such a high class set the tiebreak was something of a disappointment, strewn with unforced errors from both players. Gonzalez got off to a shaky start, losing the first four points before Nadal let him back in with two free points on his serve on the way to 4-3.

Then the Chilean gave away two points on his serve and Nadal had a set point, moving into a one-set lead when Gonzalez sent a forehand down the wrong side of the line.

Nadal was still not without problems though. In the third round against Nicolas Kiefer, he aggravated an right abdominal muscle strain first suffered in Cincinnati as he came back from a two-month lay-off due to tendinitis in his knees.

As the first set ended, the third seed called for the trainer and he looked anxious as trainer Michael Novotny made his evaluation as the player stayed seated, munching a banana.

Nadal winced repeatedly when Novotny began treating him once a medical time-out had been called but he jogged out onto the court ready to serve at the start of the second set.

There was a further disruption, though, with rain beginning to fall as Gonzalez held serve at 2-2. Play was suspended but the players were held on court by tournament referee Brian Earley, who later explained that the forecast was for a passing shower.

The stoppage in the cold weather would have concerned Nadal more, given his injury problems and he quickly covered up with a tracksuit top before the players were eventually sent to the locker room to wait out the light shower.

The longer term forecast was for a day of rain on Friday and with Juan Martin del Potro already awaiting the winner in Saturday's scheduled semi-finals, time was against Nadal and Gonzalez.

After an hour and 16-minute rain delay, Nadal in fact showed no ill effects and earned two set points at 5-4, his first break points of match.

Gonzalez responded with two big serves Nadal could not return while a third set point had to be replayed to the Spaniard's disgust when a plastic bag drifted across the court.

When play resumed Gonzalez saved it with a forehand winner, then had a point overturned on a challenged line call and then unleashed another huge forehand to take the game to level up at 5-5 on the way to another tie-break.

They managed just five more points before play was halted again as another light shower began to fall. Again the players waited in their chairs, Nadal leading the tie-break 3-2 with Gonzalez about to serve, only to be led off court for a longer delay that would prevent them returning.

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