Novak Djokovic hasn't always been at his best in 2014, but when he's anywhere near it, the rest of the tennis world just can't keep up. So far at the U.S. Open, he's been awfully close.
It will have to continue through a tough quarterfinal match against Andy Murray, a likely semifinal against No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and the assumed final against No. 2 Roger Federer. But if recent history and Djokovic's play as of late are any indication, he'll have no trouble cruising to his second Grand Slam of 2014.
The sensational Serbian has been on a tear ever since stepping foot on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows. He entered coming off a handful of uninspiring summer performances, but none of that mattered when he began play at the year's final Grand Slam.
Losing sets hasn't been of very much interest to Djokovic in New York. In fact, he has failed to drop a single set throughout his four resounding victories thus far.
He started with a dominating victory over Diego Schwartzman. That was followed by a second-round drubbing of Paul-Henri Mathieu—a match in which the victor lost all of four games—and a third-round beating of Sam Querrey, all in straight sets.
But on Monday, the 2014 Wimbledon champion was in top form. He faced his first seeded foe of the tournament, but it didn't much matter as he toppled No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.
The win put Djokovic in the lead of yet another active record, per ESPN SportsCenter:
Novak Djokovic has now made the quarterfinals in 22 consecutive majors, longest active streak in men's tennis. pic.twitter.com/fxfWgwsvtS— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 1, 2014
In the opening set, Djokovic outlasted his opponent by scaling the court with magnificent pace and powering forehand winners past Kohlschreiber. Although the second and third set scores resemble a much more even match later on, his control over it never wavered.
Of course, the matchups will only get tougher for Djokovic. All he has to do is look ahead to see that.
The eighth-seeded Murray awaits him in the quarterfinals, and after a straight-set win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that left many impressed, Djokovic might have his hands full as BBC's Russell Fuller notes:
Djokovic will start a worthy favourite in his QF with Murray but may not enjoy the ride if Murray can play the same way on Wednesday— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) September 1, 2014
Djokovic added his own thoughts on the match, per The Guardian's Kevin Mitchell:
“It’s great that I have been playing some really good tennis, really high quality so far,” he said. “But it’s normal to expect that I’m going to have tougher opponents as the tournament goes on. A quarter-final against Murray, it’s a very tough draw.”
A healthy Murray could pose problems for Djokovic if the top seed fails to set the tone early on, especially with how the British star is faring as of late. Djokovic holds a 12-8 all-time record against Murray, but he's much more dominant on the hard court where Murray has not topped him since 2012 in Dubai.
Judging off a straight-set win in the quarterfinals of the Toronto Masters last month, Djokovic will have no trouble strolling past Murray.
Will Djokovic win the 2014 U.S. Open?
Next up is most likely Wawrinka in the semifinals, which will have Djokovic thinking back to a tough quarterfinal defeat at the Australian Open. But Djokovic has hit a different level since the early parts of this year, and he'll improve his all-time record against the Swiss standout to 16-3 with another win there.
Federer will undoubtedly be Djokovic's toughest test, and if the Serbian somehow makes it that far with his perfect set streak still intact, it will be squashed there. But if Djokovic stays focused and on top of his game, he should be able to rely on his skill alone to beat one of the best ever.
Djokovic has had his ups and downs in 2014, but throughout this calendar year, he has proven more than ever that his best is simply untouchable—especially on hard courts. Unless that changes in the matter of a week, he'll be hoisting his second U.S. Open trophy.