World No. 1 and top seed Roger Federer is still clearly in top form as he has cruised easily into the fourth round of the U.S. Open. He's not lost a set, or even been pushed to a tiebreaker yet. It's actually the best he's looked early in a Grand Slam all year. However, world No. 2 Novak Djokovic is also looking close to the form that made him the champion here in 2011. Is a finals clash inevitable, or will someone step in to upset one of these two favorites?
Federer has been in his finest form here at the U.S. Open in the earlier rounds than at any other Grand Slam this year. Even at Wimbledon, when he totally dominated in the semi-final and final, he started out a little rough. He was pushed to five sets in the third round by No. 32 ranked Julien Benneteau (the same player Djokovic dismissed in straight sets today). At the French Open, where he made the semi-finals before losing to Djokovic, he only won one match (in the first round) in straight sets. He did quite well at the Australian Open in the early rounds, but was still pushed to some longer sets than he is now.
Federer still being in peak form is good news for him and his health. I still feel like he needs to conserve his energy as much as possible at his age (31) and to maintain this form into the indoor season that he usually dominates later in the year. Getting through these matches in this New York heat and humidity as early as possible is nothing but great for him. Looking ahead at his draw, he plays Mardy Fish next (who he should defeat) and will probably end up playing world No. 7 Tomas Berdych followed by No. 4 Andy Murray. This is actually to me a much more difficult draw back to back than what Djokovic has to face.
Djokovic has also cruised through this tournament in great form. He actually looks more like the defending champion at this tournament far more than he did at Wimbledon. Perhaps he's simply enjoying himself at this tournament the way that he should as a former champion. Djokovic certainly likes to have fun and cut loose, and the U.S. Open is definitely the most raucous of all the Grand Slams. It probably suits his personality the most. In any case, he hasn't dropped a set all tournament, either, and has just one man that I think is capable of defeating him before he makes the final.
That man is whoever wins the Juan Martin Del Potro/Andy Roddick match that looks almost sure to happen at this point (Del Potro just won, and Roddick is up two sets to one in his match). I think this fourth round match is where Roddick's career will end as Del Potro has been regaining that promising form that won him the championship here in 2009. A Del Potro in his best possible form could defeat Djokovic if he is not on his game, but he is the only man that I can see that might stop Djokovic from reaching the final on his side. Certainly I think that the coming quarterfinal matches are going to be some of the most dramatic we've seen at any Grand Slam this entire year.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong fan of tennis, she is sad that the final Grand Slam of the year is now halfway over but looking forward to some great drama over the next week.
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