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US Open Tennis 2013: Preview and Predictions for Thursday's Top Matches

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his men's singles fourth round match against Marcel Granollers of Spain on Day Nine of the 2013 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

The final two singles semifinalists will be determined on Day 11 of the 2013 U.S. Open. So far on the men's side, Rafael Nadal, who's looked as dominant as ever, and Richard Gasquet have punched their tickets to the final four.

On the women's side, the semifinals are already set. Favorite Serena Williams faces her toughest test of the tournament, at least to this point, in Li Na. Surprise contender Flavia Pennetta will have to upset No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka to continue her terrific run.

Two more players will join that star-studded group on Thursday. Let's take a closer look at each of the remaining quarterfinal matchups and make predictions for which players will move within two wins of a major title.

 

Andy Murray vs. Stanislas Wawrinka

Murray and Wawrinka are not strangers to meeting on the biggest stages of tennis. They have met three times in Grand Slam events and once in the Olympics. Murray has won three of those four clashes and holds an 8-5 overall advantage against the Swiss star.

The defending U.S. Open champion better be ready for serious challenge in the quarters. Wawrinka played tremendously in his victory over Tomas Berdych, using his power off both wings to get the No. 5 seed off his game.

When Wawrinka is at his best, as he was starting in the second set of that match, he's a legitimate threat. He just hasn't been able to maintain that level of play for an extended period of time. A lack of consistency makes it very difficult to survive the journey in a major.

Murray dealt with similar issues before breaking through at the London Olympics last year. Since then, his confidence in these big matches has been far higher. That was on full display en route to titles in last year's U.S. Open and this year's Wimbledon.

In a match that should have a lot of close sets, that past success is a huge advantage for Murray.

Wawrinka should find a way to split the first two sets, but the defending champ will take control from there.

Prediction: Murray wins in four sets.

 

Novak Djokovic vs. Mikhail Youzhny

In many respects, Djokovic has been overlooked throughout the tournament. With the focus on a resurgent Nadal, the title defense of Murray and the unfortunately fading Roger Federer, he's flown below the radar and just kept winning.

He's won all four of his matches in straight sets. More impressively, only once in those 12 sets did his opponent take more than three games. While he certainly hasn't had the toughest draw, that type of play illustrates why he's won six Grand Slam titles.

Youzhny has always been a player that's given Djokovic some trouble, however.

The Serbian sensation holds a narrow 5-3 edge in eight lifetime meetings and needed to go the distance to win their only meeting of 2013 at the Monte Carlo Masters.

The biggest concern for Youzhny is his fitness level. He needed four sets to eliminate Tommy Haas and then survived a five-set thriller against Lleyton Hewitt. That's a lot of tennis in recent days, while his quarterfinal opponent has been on cruise control.

Ultimately, the fitness factor paired with Djokovic's strong play gives the latter a clear edge. Youzhny will likely put up a fight in the opening set, but he simply won't have enough in the tank to pull off the upset to reach the semifinals.

Prediction: Djokovic wins in three sets.

 

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