Roger Federer enters Monday's fourth round at Flushing Meadows still among the favorites to win the 2012 US Open men's draw.
In fact he is yet to lose a set in his first three rounds. But a closer look at the match statistics show Federer has areas he can improve as the competition ramps up this week.
He will be playing America's Mardy Fish Monday. Fish will bring about an interesting challenge for the veteran Federer. Here are the areas he must be prepared for in that match and going forward, should he prevail.
Federer's opponent on Labor Day is Mardy Fish. Fish is 10th in this tournament in recording aces. Through three rounds he has 44.
Federer's return point percentage and total is not impressive, at least in relation to the rest of his competition. In fact, it's nowhere to be found among the leaders.
It's not a perfect formula to say player X is tops in aces while player N is low on return points, thus player X somehow has some great advantage. In fact, Federer is great at returning the serve and keeping a rally going.
That is where he has the advantage. But his return game needs to improve. Even Andy Murray, a possible semifinals opponent, is 19th in aces. Improving in this area is imperative.
Not only is Mardy Fish great in the service game, but he's actually second in the tournament in first serve return points.
In other words, Federer is facing a player who earns points in a hurry both offensively and defensively.
Federer must be prepared for this, and adjust his game accordingly. In a perfect world, that would likely mean he earns more aces himself. Clearly that is not part of his game, though.
What it really means is that he must figure a way to avoid being beaten on the return and then win the points after it's become a rallying game. That seems to be the key to victory here.
Roger Federer has won 13 break points. His fourth round opponent Mardy Fish has won 20. And his likely nemesis to get to the finals, Andy Murray, has won 18.
It's nice to see Federer's name among the leaders in at least one category, but that really doesn't mean much when his upcoming opponents are better than him.
This is just another area he must improve.
It is clear that Mardy Fish will be quite a challenge for Federer.
It's not that Federer has lost anything. In fact, he's playing as well as he did in 2008, the last time he won this tournament. That said, something does seem to be missing.
It seems a bit of that winning attitude, that swagger which has really defined Federer throughout his heroically amazing career, may be gone.
Or at least it seems to have lessened to normal human levels. Even as he was winning Wimbledon in July, Federer seemed very low key compared to what used to define him.
He's always been a classy competitor and gracious in victory or defeat. But that on-the-court demeanor was characterized as fiery, whereas now it would have to be competitive. Either way it's just different.
Considering that Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and even his fourth round opponent Mardy Fish are playing great tennis this week, Federer needs every advantage he can get to claim a record sixth US Open title.
Nothing should be easier to rekindle than that Federer swagger and attitude. He's just got find it within himself one more time.