As has been the case in all of this year's Grand Slams, Novak Djokovic hasn't truly been tested throughout the first several rounds.
Now that he's made it into his 14th straight major quarterfinal, though, the hard work really begins—as always. And it starts with the player who stretched Roger Federer to a four-hour, 26-minute match at the Olympics a month ago.
If that isn't an indication that this quarterfinal matchup is going to be a grind, nothing is. But the world No. 2 will be ready for it.
On Wednesday, Djokovic triumphed over Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-1, 3-1 to earn a date with Del Potro in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Del Potro took down Andy Roddick—and ended the American legend's career—for the right to face the reigning champion.
For both players, this will be a test unlike any other—and for both of them, the importance of a win in this matchup cannot be understated.
These two are familiar with what it takes to win at the U.S. Open, and they're familiar with what it takes to beat each other. In fact, they've seen a lot of each other over the past month.
They faced off in the bronze medal match at the Olympics, which was just about as disappointing a consolation prize as either of them could get. Djokovic was coming off a somewhat shocking defeat at the hands of eventual champion Andy Murray, and Del Potro was coming off a devastating loss in that marathon matchup against Federer.
The Argentinian was the one who pulled himself together in time to salvage the bronze medal. In two sets, he took down a lackluster Djokovic, who seemed to have no interest at all in being there.
Now that the disappointment has worn off, though, the Djokovic that Del Potro will see in the U.S. Open quarters will be nothing like the one he saw in London. Instead, you can expect Djokovic to play the way he did in the Cincinnati Open, when he beat Del Potro 6-3, 6-2.
This is Djokovic's opportunity to make up for what has been disappointment after disappointment ever since the Australian Open in January. Since then, he's bowed down Rafael Nadal at the French Open, Federer at Wimbledon and Murray at the Olympics. He's lost his top ranking. This is his final chance to win a Grand Slam this year, after missing opportunity after opportunity, even those he was expected to seize.
And now that Federer is no longer in the mix on the other side of the bracket, a victory in the final Grand Slam of the year has never looked more likely for Djokovic.
Ever since the Australian Open, there has been something missing every time the Serb has stepped foot onto the court. He hasn't looked as formidable as usual; he's looked vulnerable and prone to uncharacteristic mistakes.
Not so throughout this year's Open. Djokovic hasn't even lost a set in Flushing Meadow thus far, according to CBSSports.com. Over the first four rounds, he's dropped just 20 games. He's looked like himself. He's looked the way Nadal (when he was healthy), Federer and even Murray have looked at times this summer: dominant and unconquerable.
In this matchup, Djokovic has everything going for him: momentum, familiarity with his opponent, the confidence that he can take down that opponent.
Most of all, he knows that this is his opportunity to halt all of the questions about whether he can return to form. And you can be sure he'll seize that opportunity against Del Potro.