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Sharp Nadal eases into quarterfinals

The Associated PressNEW YORK (AP) — Locked in a tight test at the U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal conjured up an over-the-shoulder, back-to-the-net flick of a volley winner that he celebrated with a leap and punch of the air.

If that wasn’t the shot of the match, then surely this was, a couple of points later: a cross-court backhand passing winner off an overhead by his opponent, 2014 champion Marin Cilic, good enough to earn a yell and four fist pumps from Nadal — along with an uppercut from Tiger Woods in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands. Then again, maybe it was the sprinting, sliding, bend-it-around-the-net-post forehand winner to get to match point, which Woods loved, too.

Nadal is looking healthy and hungry at Flushing Meadows so far, and he quickly broke things open against Cilic by seizing nine consecutive games for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 win in the fourth round Monday.

Asked to explain that shot on the next-to-last point, Nadal chuckled a bit and said: “It’s easy to describe and difficult to make.”

“I hit it well,” Nadal said, “but to hit that spot, of course you need some luck.”

The 33-year-old Spaniard reached his ninth quarterfinal in New York and 40th at all major tournaments.

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