Day 10 at the US Open has the feel of an epic. The fourth round/quarterfinal stages of grand slams tend to have that—a transitional period from the rudimentary to complex, as the top seeds begin to access the gears in their arsenals.
Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro continue a match halted by rain. Djokovic will try to hold off Wawrinka and fellow Serbian Tipsarevic will attempt the same to Kohlschreiber. The first quarterfinal matches will make their appearance on Arthur Ashe, with Andy Murray facing Marin Cilic, and Roger Federer up against Tomas Berdych.
There is a reason why Federer-Berdych has been made a night match, and Murray's not. It has something to do with the fact that Murray has just played one, but more with the reality that Federer's on-court relationship with Berdych is more fiery than Murray's with Cilic.
While Cilic has beaten Murray at the Open before, that victory in 2009 has been his lone triumph over Murray; Berdych, en contraire, has a colourful history with Federer that now stands at 11-4 in Federer's favour, but which has included a 3-3 record in their past six matches, including a Berdych victory at Wimbledon.
The racket dynamic between these two is also astounding, much more so than the comparably more baseline-oriented organism that is Murray-Cilic. Federer the tennis artist, the man with all the shots and more, goes up against Berdych, who possesses some of the most explosive groundstrokes in the sport. They read, in fact, like more mature versions of Murray and Cilic.
Moreover, there will be that New York night-match atmosphere (provided the rain does not intervene), which tends to favour the cleaner hitters in this sport. Of such hitters, there could be fewer exemplars than Federer and Berdych.
If this match is worth anything, it's certainly at least worth a Masters Series final, which is where these two last met in Madrid. It was a close, hard-fought affair that was won in the end by Federer, who had just that bit more than the Czech. But the lessons learnt there and in the past will be put to practice again tomorrow: pressure the Federer second serve and hang on in his games.
Federer's approach is likely to involve the more complex problem of moving around a big man who has learnt to move well and hold onto his own deal with aggressive tennis. Aggression is likely to be key to a Federer victory.
What makes this match tantalising above that of any other tomorrow is the sheer fact that Berdych gets to Federer in ways no others have; his victory against Federer at Wimbledon puts him only among three players to have achieved that feat since 2003. Federer is the current world number one, but all that will matter in their quarterfinal clash tomorrow is the fact that the two men are at parity in their last six encounters.