By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - With Roger Federer out of the way, the Spanish armada are threatening to take over the U.S. Open.
Only Frenchman Richard Gasquet stands in the way of a Spaniard appearing in next Monday's men's final after Rafa Nadal, Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer all sailed into the quarter-finals.
With Nadal scheduled to meet Robredo on Wednesday, Spain is already assured of having one semi-finalist, and if Ferrer beats Gasquet, there will be an all-Spanish semi, ensuring the world's most dominant force in men's tennis will have a contender in the championship decider.
"I think it's great," said Nadal, who is bidding for a second U.S. Open title after winning at Flushing Meadows in 2010. "It's great for Spanish sport and Spanish tennis."
Nadal is the overwhelming favorite to go on and make the final after dropping just one set en route to the last eight.
The 12-time grand slam winner has never lost to Robredo, and only dropped one set in six previous meetings, but remains wary of his Davis Cup team mate after his stunning fourth-round upset over Federer on Monday.
Robredo, who rejoined the tour last year after missing a year following leg surgery, had never beaten Federer before either but played one of the best matches of his career to demolish the Swiss master in straight sets.
"It's unbelievable what he's doing after a year without having the chance to play tennis," Nadal said. "What he's doing is great (but) I hope he stops here."
Despite being seeded fourth, the ultra-consistent Ferrer has slipped through the draw almost unnoticed, going about his business with little fuss and fanfare.
The 31-year-old has not won a grand slam but has proven himself to be one of the most consistent players on tour, reaching the quarter-finals or better at each of the last eight majors and was a finalist at the French Open in June.
One of the fittest and most tenacious players on the tour, he has dropped a set in each of his past three matches and relishes the extra workload.
He looked to be in trouble in his fourth-round match with Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic before rallying to win 7-6(2) 3-6 7-5 7-6(3) in a slugfest that took nearly four hours to complete.
"I think it was my best match this week," he said.
Gasquet had to work even harder to reach his first U.S. Open quarter-final, saving a match point in his fourth round win over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
Raonic hit 39 aces and a total of 102 winners but Gasquet remained patient and seized his chances when they finally came. He faces an even tougher task against Ferrer after losing eight of their previous nine clashes.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)