When Roger Federer began his Australian Open journey, the talk surrounded the difficult draw on the horizon. It hasn't phased the 17-time Grand Slam champion, however, as he's breezed through the first four rounds and will now face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals.
It's been an impressive run for Federer, who began the season's first major with victories over Benoit Paire and wily veteran Nikolay Davydenko. While they are matches everybody expected him to win handily, it certainly wasn't an easy start.
Then things got a little more interesting when he faced Australian Bernard Tomic, who's finally starting to live up to his immense potential. All the momentum Tomic had built up before that match was quickly washed away as Federer moved on in straight sets.
It was after that victory that it became clear Federer was geared up for another deep run. He was not only able to overcome a young, talented player, but he did it with the trademark simplicity that allowed him to dominate for so many years.
He followed that up with another straight-sets victory over big-hitting Canadian Milos Raonic, which set up his quarterfinal encounter with Tsonga. He's yet to drop a set.
The charismatic Frenchman has been impressive in his own right. Not only has he lost just one set, but he's looked far more prepared for a deep run in terms of fitness, which gives him a chance to enter the quarters on a level playing field in that area.
In 11 previous encounters against Federer, Tsonga has won three, which is actually a pretty solid ratio compared to a lot of other players. The last two meetings went to the Swiss Maestro, but both went the distance.
In other words, tennis fans should be in for a treat. These are the type of matches Tsonga has to win if he wants to reach an elite level, but the same was said for Federer's last two opponents, both of whom he was able to quickly dispatch.
The key for Tsonga will be defending his serve early. Federer is going to push for that early break to test Tsonga mentally. If he can hold and keep the first set close, there's a good chance this turns into a marathon match.
Ultimately, Federer should be able to use his all-around game to gain an edge late, just like he did in their last two meetings. The gap between him and the next wave of players has shrunk in recent years, but it's still there.
Tsonga will be a game opponent, but Federer has looked like a man on the mission so far. He should advance, setting up a likely semifinal match with Andy Murray.
Prediction: Federer in five sets
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!