With the other alpha dogs of men's tennis already knocked out of commission in the 2013 U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are poised to meet yet again with a major title on the line.
Unexpected outcomes have highlighted the men's side of this year's U.S. Open. Roger Federer proved his No. 7 seeding to not be much of a slight when he suffered a fourth-round exit. A late mainstay despite owning the hardware to match, David Ferrer was eliminated in the quarterfinals courtesy of Richard Gasquet.
And most shockingly of all, defending champion Andy Murray fell short of a semifinals bid with a quarterfinals loss to No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka.
As those top seeds fell, Djokovic and Nadal, respectively seeded first and second, took care of their business, each advancing to the semifinals. Those stunners have put the tennis community on upset alert, but it merely clears the path for Djokovic and Nadal to square off one more time.
Both stars will face men fresh off sealing major victories. Djokovic gets Wawrinka after his triumph over Murray while Nadal will challenge Gasquet after besting Ferrer.
Beating Djokovic or Nadal is a whole different story.
Think back to the last time Djokovic fell victim to an alluring underdog tale. To locate his last truly disappointing major defeat, one must travel back to 2010, where Jurgen Melzer ousted him in the French Open quarterfinals.
Since that loss, Djokovic has lasted up to the semifinals in a dazzling 14 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, including the 2013 Open. Nine of those runs continued to the finals, with five ending in a first-place finish.
After a humiliating first-round defeat at Wimbledon, Nadal has bounced back with a vengeance. The Spaniard, who has embraced the hard courts despite his "King of Clay" moniker, has only dropped one set in the tournament. ESPN illuminated some revealing stats pertaining to Nadal's recent dominance.
Rafa Nadal is in The Zone. He’s a perfect 20-0 on hard courts this season and has yet to lose a service game at this year’s #USOpen.— ESPN (@espn) September 5, 2013
Both hitting their strides at the pinnacle of their storied careers, Djokovic and Nadal will both deservedly enter their bouts as the undisputed favorite. Neither of their competitors has lasted this far in a major, and both are over their heads going up against superior competitors.
Nadal and Gasquet have met 10 times before, with Nadal sweeping the series. While Wawrinka has a bit more room for optimism after taking Djokovic to the brink during last January's Australian Open, the Swiss underdog has not defeated the world's No. 1 since 2006, when Djokovic was 18 years old.
The two titans have gone toe-to-toe in five prior Grand Slam finals, including showdowns in Flushing Meadows during 2010 and 2011. They split their U.S. Open matches, with Djokovic holding the overall edge at 3-2.
Nadal has the overall advantage at 21-15, but Djokovic has bested his rival in 11 of their 17 hard-court matches. The sport's top showcase should get another chance to entertain the world once Nadal and Djokovic clean house in the semifinals.
In a year with more unanticipated outcomes than usual, expected Saturday's action on the men's side to provide the expected outcomes.