By Simon Evans
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal comfortably dealt with France's Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-6(1) 6-2 on Saturday to move into the final of the U.S. Open where he faces a highly anticipated clash with world number one Novak Djokovic.
After Djokovic needed five sets to deal with a determined Stanislas Wawrinka in their earlier semi-final, second-seed Nadal's task was almost routine against an opponent he has now beaten in all 11 meetings.
Djokovic and Nadal will now meet for the third time in four years in the Monday final at Flushing Meadows with Nadal having triumphed in 2010 and holding a 21-15 record in their all-time meetings.
"Novak is an amazing competitor. His results say he is probably one of the best players I have ever seen," said the Spaniard. "He's a great champion and it will be a tough final for me but I hope to be ready for that."
Nadal, who missed last year's U.S. Open with a knee injury, heads into the final in rich form though with a 21-0 record on hard courts this year.
That streak never looked in danger of being ended by the 27-year-old Gasquet who has yet to reach a grand slam final.
Nadal swiftly broke Gasquet's first serve of the match, when the Frenchman found the net and he held his serve with relative ease to take the first set in 43 minutes.
The second-set had a different flavour as he was pushed hard by the Frenchman, who broke in the fourth game, ending Nadal's streak of 88 successive games of holding serve.
Playing disciplined and intelligent tennis throughout the second set, Gasquet forced a tiebreak but that decider was a one-sided affair which Gasquet started and ended with a double-fault as Nadal ran out a 7-1 winner.
Nadal then broke in the second game of the third with a magnificent forehand down the line. He took full command of the match when Gasquet ended the third set in disappointing fashion with two double faults on the final two points.
"It was very tough conditions out there today," said Nadal.
"The wind was very strong and that made it very difficult to play. I think I played solid first set and that's very important, to win the first in these kind of matches.
"Then in the second when it seemed I had the match under control, everything changed. Richard played better. I had a few games that I didn't play that well.
"So it was very important that I came back and then I think I played a great tiebreak. Winning the second set I don't say is done, but it is a big advantage," he added.
Gasquet said he felt a glimmer of hope in the second but was satisfied that he had at least raised the hopes of being the first Frenchman to reach the U.S. Open final since Cedric Pioline in 1993.
"Of course I'm a little bit disappointed. I think I was close to winning the second set. If could have made the break in the second, you never know what could happen in the third.
"But I think he was little bit better than me. No problem with that. Of course it's a very good tournament for me."
(Editing by Gene Cherry/Greg Stutchbury)