With Roger Federer's longtime nemesis out of the way for the time being, the 17-time Grand Slam singles champion vies for more history at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Federer has already disposed of Donald Young and Bjorn Phau in the first two rounds in Flushing, N.Y. He beat both of them in straight sets, using a combination of stellar serving and strong net play.
But what awaits Federer down the line? Will he make it to the Final?
Here's who I see Federer facing moving forward, complete with my predictions.
Check out the 2012 U.S. Open bracket here.
Fernando Verdasco (3rd Round)
Federer will face Fernando Verdasco on Saturday, a man he is 5-0 against. He last defeated the Spaniard in three sets at the 2009 Barclays.
Verdasco, the No. 25 seed in the tournament, survived a scare from Albert Ramos in the second round, ultimately winning in four close sets (two involved tie-breakers).
Federer shouldn't have any trouble with Verdasco as he rolls to another straight-set victory.
Gilles Simon (4th Round)
Back in 2008, Gilles Simon had Federer's number, winning both of their matches in straight sets.
But this is not 2008, this is 2012, and Simon has lost his last two matches against Fed-Ex, including in the second round of the 2011 Australian Open.
Simon lost in four sets to Federer at the Australian Open, but I expect him to be less of a threat against the 31-year-old Swiss this time around. It's taken Simon nine sets to get through Michael Russell and Jimmy Wang.
Tomas Berdych (Quarterfinals)
To say Federer and Berdych have played each other a lot would be an understatement.
The two have played each other 15 times since the 2004 Athens Olympics, with Federer holding an 11-4 advantage. Federer has won their last two matches, but he did lose to Berdych in Cincinnati last year.
The world No. 7 has looked good in the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, defeating David Goffin and Jurgen Zopp in straight sets. However, ultimately, it's hard to see him defeating Federer, who has simply been on a roll this year and is determined to notch yet another major championship.
Andy Murray (Semifinals)
This is where things should get interesting.
Even before Murray defeated Federer in the final of the 2012 London Olympics, he had garnered some success against the veteran. The two were 8-8 against each other before the Olympics.
On the other hand, Murray's victory in London was more important than all the rest because it showed he could beat Federer on a grand stage, albeit backed by an electric home crowd.
Still, Murray hasn't beaten Federer in a major yet (0-3), and that includes in the final at Wimbledon this year. I do believe he has made some strides, but I still can't take him over Fed-Ex. I see him falling in four sets.
Novak Djokovic (Final)
I've never been so down on a guy who has a 56-10 record on the year.
Because Novak Djokovic has lost that mental edge he had last year. He has three singles titles this year, but he's struggled by his standards since his victory at the Australian Open.
By "struggled," I mean that he goes far in tournaments, as expected, but doesn't finish them. He's reached the quarterfinals or better in 11 tournaments since the Australian Open, but has two singles titles to show for it (no major championships). He lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the French Open and lost to Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon.
Is he still a top three player in the world? Of course he is. His talent is unquestioned.
But he's lost his last two matches against Federer after winning seven of eight against the Swiss great dating back to last year's Australian Open. He no longer has that hold on Federer that he once had and Federer has a great deal of momentum after his win at Wimbledon and the Western & Southern Open.
I think Federer wins in four sets to capture his 18th career Grand Slam singles title.
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