Andy Murray: Can He Prevent a Djokovic-Federer Final at 2014 US Open?

Van SiasContributor IIIAugust 21, 2014

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 26:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia ris congratulated by Andy Murray of Great Britain after their match during the Sony Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 26, 2014 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It's essentially been a season to forget so far for Andy Murray, currently ranked ninth and seeded eighth at this year's U.S. Open.

But based on where he landed in the draw in the final Grand Slam of 2014, he faces a major opportunity to make a big statement and could be the biggest roadblock to a final between the tournament's top two seeds, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Murray, who's entering the event outside the top four for the first time since 2008, is in the same section of the draw as Djokovic, and—if things hold to form—the two are slated to meet in the quarterfinals. 

To think, it was only two years ago when this was a final-round matchup that Murray won to capture his first Major title. The two split their subsequent meetings in Grand Slam finals, with Djokovic winning the 2013 Australian Open and Murray breaking the decades-long drought of a British man at Wimbledon when he captured the '13 title.

Since then, there have been plenty of ups and downs between the two, and it's hard to gauge who's playing the better brand of tennis at the moment.

Djokovic regained the top ranking after his Wimbledon victory this year. However, the summer hard-court stretch did not go as planned as he lost early at the ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati. Murray—still trying to find his footing after back surgery last year—reached the quarterfinals at both events, falling to a resurgent Federer in Cincinnati and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto.

Tsonga is actually slated to meet Murray in the fourth round. And while the Frenchman might present a formidable test, Murray should be able to come through. He leads his head-to-head encounters with Tsonga 9-2 and earlier this year defeated him in Miami 6-4, 6-1. Murray is able to blunt Tsonga's power and wear him down in baseline rallies. Plus, this happens to be Tsonga's worst Major as he's only advanced to the quarterfinals once, back in 2011.

That could leave Murray with a shot at Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Their matches have been battles of attrition as both play a strikingly similar game. They both hug the baseline and utilize all angles of the court in their rallies. Djokovic and Murray, too, both play what could be best described as "aggressive defense," where the stakes are raised in each exchange as it becomes nearly impossible to get the ball past their opponent. This is reflected in the closeness of their head-to-head match-ups, with Djokovic leading the series 12-8.

Who will win out this time, though, if they are to meet? A rusty Djokovic or a still working his way into form Murray? One thing's for sure: Murray could be the biggest obstacle to a Djokovic-Federer final.