The 2013 ATP World Tour season has been none too kind to one of tennis' true legends, as Roger Federer has produced at a lackluster level. For all that has been made of Federer's decline, however, he's currently in position to make a deep run at the U.S. Open.
With more-than-manageable contests in front of him, Federer will breeze to the quarterfinals.
Federer has been very strong early on, winning his first two matches without dropping a single set. He defeated Gregor Zemlja of Slovenia 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 and Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 to offer a statistical display of his progression.
More importantly, Federer moved further up the ranks of the elite.
Seeing as Federer has five U.S. Open titles, you shouldn't be too surprised.
Up next, Federer will face unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who upset No. 26 Sam Querrey 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (5-7), 6-4. With such a long, grueling match behind him, it'll be interesting to see how much energy Mannarino has left for a clash with the generation's greatest.
Mannarino reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, but Federer isn't just favored in this contest—he's a virtual lock.
Should the Swiss tennis guru advance, he'll face either No. 19 Tommy Robredo or rising star Daniel Evans. Robredo is a respected competitor, but he's also 0-10 against Federer—a record that needs no explanation.
As for Evans, he's turned heads by upsetting two of the fastest-rising players in tennis with wins over Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic. With that being said, neither Nishikori nor Tomic are striving to reach Federer's level, meaning they aren't there just yet.
I ask this question with complete knowledge of the unpredictability of the U.S. Open: Who actually stands a chance of upsetting Federer during the next two rounds?
This isn't a pure indictment of the talent Federer will be facing, but instead an acknowledgement of history. Federer has won five of the past nine U.S. Open events and reached the quarterfinals in all nine, making it to the semifinals in eight.
Prior to the anomaly known as Wimbledon 2013, when both Rafael Nadal and Federer lost before the second round, he'd also reached the quarterfinals in 36 consecutive Grand Slam events.
As lackluster as he's been in 2013, Federer does own a semifinals berth at the Australian Open and a quarterfinals appearance at the French Open. Even if some would like to see a young player like Evans shine, Federer has too much on the line to take any player lightly.
Besides, why would the tennis gods prevent a potential Federer versus Nadal quarterfinals match?
When all factors are weighed, it becomes clear that Federer has a clear path to the quarterfinals. The players he faces will inevitably try their hardest, but the all-time great is at a crossroads in his career.
If he's going out, don't expect Federer to do so before the quarterfinals. Not with the chance to play Nadal just two wins away.