Nadal friend and victim Verdasco picks Federer to win

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal's latest U.S. Open victim, his friend Fernando Verdasco, said his pick to win the year's last grand slam would be Roger Federer and not his Spanish Davis Cup team mate.

"He's playing good," Verdasco said of top-seeded Nadal, who dropped his first and only service game of the tournament in the third game of the opening set of their quarter-final to end a run of 62 successive holds.

"If I am not wrong, I think that he will play the final against Roger. It's going to be a tough match, because I think Roger plays really good in these conditions.

"I think if I need to bet here, I will bet for Roger. I think that he won five times here and he likes these conditions."

Nadal, who improved his record to 11-0 against Verdasco, said his fellow-lefthander's prediction was understandable.

"For sure Roger is the favorite of the tournament," said Nadal after booking his third successive trip to U.S. Open semi-finals. "Especially because he won five times. And six finals in a row. No one doubt on that.

In suggesting conditions could favor Federer, Verdasco was most likely referring to the fast hardcourt used at Flushing Meadows rather than the cold and wind.

The weather conditions had though, helped Nadal on Thursday, by robbing Verdasco of a chance to compete against Nadal.

"I think that for the game I need to beat Rafa, these conditions were very bad for me," said eighth-seeded Verdasco. "My game plan was to try to push him all I can with my serve.

"It was very difficult even to make the toss of the ball. And to try to play aggressive, try to play inside of the court ... the ball was moving all the time and was impossible to play the game I need to try to have chances to beat Rafa."

(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Nick Mulvenney)