The US Open is now halfway through, and for the first or second time, big names will be clashing against even bigger names.
This customary collision of the seeds in the men's draw has produced two exciting prospects for Day 8. The first of them sees five-time champion Roger Federer up against the best of America, Mardy Fish, while the other pitches gold medallist Andy Murray against perhaps the best of North America, Milos Raonic.
Two tantalizing and unusual matchups that feature four players of more parity than most might think. Here is a fearless forecast for how they will turn out tomorrow.
1) Roger Federer (1) vs Mardy Fish (23)
Mardy Fish might be coming out of a health crisis and may not be the player he once was, but one should never underestimate his ability to play well on American hard courts. His best performances at the Masters level have come at Montreal and Cincinnati in recent years, and he certainly has the game and temper to do well in New York.
As for Roger Federer, no detailed introduction should be necessary, save that he has proven time and time again that he is suited to the courts of Flushing Meadows as well as the greats of the past. While it would seem like this match will be all of Mardy's to do, Federer will need to keep an eye on his serve and move Fish around the court.
Fish faces a far taller task. He will have to red-line his first serve and assault the ball as early as possible with flat, hard drives that will hopefully procure easy put-away volleys. He'll have to mix it up well, too, in order to make sure the Swiss doesn't get into a returning rhythm.
The Catch: While Fish has traditionally been able to trouble Federer in more ways than others— certainly more so than Roddick—he lost their last meeting trying to do just that.
The Pick: Federer in three tight sets, perhaps four.
2) Andy Murray (3) vs Milos Raonic (15)
Murray and Raonic come into this match with a much different history to their last encounter. Intriguingly, they have faced each other three times, but only one of those times produced a proper result, with the other two having been withdrawals. Crucially, Raonic leads 1-0.
The last time they faced each other at Barcelona, Raonic had the confidence running through him after a great early season, while Murray wasn't too keen on making his career-defining moment on a European clay court. It resulted in a startling straight sets win for the Canadian.
This time, on an American hard court, Murray comes in with the confidence of a career-defining moment at the London Olympics, and knows that Raonic plays with less experience on a bigger stage.
His near-flawless efforts through the first three rounds have only been marred by big serving Lopez, and it has become apparent that Murray has all the weapons necessary to beat Raonic: a world class return, impeccable defensive agility and movement and a much improved forehand.
Raonic does provide some caveats for those hoping for a breezy Murray win, however. He has a terrific serve—one of the best in the world—which even Murray might be troubled by, and groundstrokes like those of a mini-Del Potro. Coupled with the excitement and unpredictability of a night match, Raonic could prove an even harder test than Murray's third-round encounter against the like-serving Lopez.
The Catch: Raonic hasn't yet proved himself on the grand slam stage, and Murray seems to be playing his best tennis ever.
The Pick: Murray in four, maybe five, sets.