Nadal headlines Spanish surge at U.S. Open

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top-seeded Rafa Nadal led a conquering Spanish armada at the U.S. Open by taking his place in the fourth round along with four compatriots on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal of Spain serves to Gilles Simon of France during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 5, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Nadal defeated France’s Gilles Simon 6-4 6-4 6-2 in a victory that ensured Spain a Flushing Meadows semi-finalist and a continuation of a brilliant sporting year for the country after a World Cup soccer triumph and Tour de France victory.

All four round-of-16 slots in the upper quarter of the draw are filled by Spaniards with Nadal and Feliciano Lopez playing for one quarter-final berth, and 10th seed David Ferrer and eighth seed Fernando Verdasco contesting the other.

They were joined into the fourth round by Tommy Robredo, who continued his charmed run when he advanced for the second successive time on the retirement of his opponent.

Robredo was leading 3-6 7-6 6-4 2-1 when Michael Llodra of France called it a day.

“Already one Spanish player going to be in semifinals,” Nadal said. “That is positive news for us.”

On the other half of the draw, 21st seed Albert Montanes had already advanced to a match against Sweden’s fifth-seeded Robin Soderling for a place in the quarter-finals -- giving Spain six of the last 16 men’s players left in the U.S. Open.

“It’s always nice to see all the Spanish winning and being in the last rounds,” said Verdasco, who advanced with a four-set win over Argentine David Nalbandian.

Spaniards are known for thriving on the clay courts of Roland Garros, but tend to have a more difficult time adjusting to the hardcourts of the National Tennis Center.

“Is very positive because for the ball and for the court, is probably the most difficult tournament for us, no?” added Nadal. “So that is very important news for the Spanish tennis.”

Nadal has already supplied Spain with bragging rights in tennis, having won the French and Wimbledon crowns and reclaimed the world number one ranking.

“I just congratulate my friends. Best of luck for everybody,” he said.

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Steve Ginsburg