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Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer cruise into US Open quarterfinals

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine after their fourth round Men's Singles match on Day Eight of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 4, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
clive brunskill/Getty
Rafael Nadal salutes the crowd after his win.

NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal easily returned to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time in four years by routing Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1, Monday.

Nadal turned in his most powerful performance yet on a dominant day for the No. 1 seeds, and moved a win away from a potential semifinal showdown with longtime rival Roger Federer.

Federer elminated No. 33 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5, Monday night, the only bit of intrigue coming after the second set, when Federer left to take a medical timeout.

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He said afterward with a laugh that it was so he could get ‘‘a bit of a rub on my back — or my bottom — and I didn’t want to do it on court.’’

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Juan Martin del Potro, looking sick and sluggish as can be at the outset, staved off sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem on the strength of powerful serves and thunderous forehands for a 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory over more than 3½ hours.

It was by far the day’s most enthralling match, with spectators’ roars heard all the way across the grounds at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Del Potro set up a quarterfinal showdown against Federer.

Federer’s back had been bothering him before the US Open and restricted his practice time, something he blamed for problems while getting pushed to five sets in each of the first two rounds last week. But the lopsided win against Kohlschreiber — who never held a break point — was Federer’s second in a row in straight sets.

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Nadal punished an opponent who had beaten him in two of the previous three meetings shortly after top-seeded Karolina Pliskova overwhelmed American Jennifer Brady, 6-1, 6-0, in just 47 minutes,

‘‘Every victory, every set that you win is more confidence. That what’s I am doing,’’ Nadal said.

He never gave the unseeded Dolgopolov a chance, breaking serve six times in the 1-hour-41-minute match.

Nadal hadn’t reached the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows since the second of his two US Open titles in 2013.

He advanced to face 19-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev, the youngest quarterfinalist since Andy Roddick had just turned 19 in 2001.

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Rublev upset No. 9 seed David Goffin, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, and will be Nadal’s fifth straight unseeded opponent.

‘‘I am in quarterfinals against a tough opponent now. I need to be ready to keep fighting and play better than today, and that’s my goal,’’ Nadal said.

Nadal had dropped the first set in the two previous rounds but he was locked in from the start of his 50th US Open victory, never losing serve and facing just two break points.

Dolgopolov, who has been interviewed by anti-corruption investigators about a match with unusual betting patterns last month at another tournament, was hesitant to give Nadal too much credit.

‘‘I played bad,’’ Dolgopolov said. ‘‘He didn’t do much today.”

I was [making mistakes] a lot. I was pretty much deciding most of the points.’’

The second match of the day at Arthur Ashe Stadium started perhaps a little earlier than expected, thanks to the ease of Pliskova’s victory.

Two days after having to fight off a match point to advance, the Czech ran her unseeded opponent off the court as fans were still just filing into the grounds at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Pliskova won 22 of 24 points on her first serve, broke Brady’s serve six times and advanced to face No. 20 CoCo Vandeweghe, who beat Lucie Safarova 6-4, 7-6 (2) to become the third American into the women’s quarterfinals.

‘‘Sometimes you just need to have some of those matches where you can just really get through it. You don’t even know why, but the game improves so much,’’ Pliskova said. ‘‘So I didn’t change anything. I didn’t even practice yesterday. So there is nothing really what I did different. But I just felt much better.’’

Pliskova was the runner-up to Angelique Kerber at Flushing Meadows last year and needs to get back to the final in order to remain atop the WTA rankings.

She wouldn’t have much problem if she plays as she did in a nearly flawless fourth-round performance, looking nothing like the player who nearly went home a round earlier.

Pliskova also played the first match on Ashe on Saturday. She dropped the first set and had to fight off a match point in the second before rallying to beat No. 27 Zhang Shuai, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

This time, she raced to a 4-0 lead against an obviously nervous opponent, then won the second set in even more lopsided fashion. She won 25 points to just seven for Brady in the second set.

‘‘I felt like she was playing pretty well today,” said Brady. “I didn’t play my best. Maybe I gave her the opportunity to play well.

“But, you know, I think she was hitting her spots and her serves well. She came out playing, I felt, like the No. 1 player.’’

Kaia Kanepi beat Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-4, 6-4, to become the first qualifier in 36 years to reach the US Open women’s quarterfinals.

The 32-year-old Estonian is ranked 418th after missing much of the past two years with problems in the soles of both feet and a virus known as a precursor to mononucleosis.