Quarterfinal play rolls on at the U.S. Open on Wednesday as the season's final major enters crunch time. A Grand Slam title is now within reach for every player left standing in both draws, which also means the pressure level is rapidly on the rise.
The day is highlighted by both No. 1 seeds, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, being in action. While the latter has the tougher matchup in the form of a revitalized Andy Murray, Flavia Pennetta has only dropped one set to reach this point and could challenge the top women's player as well.
Let's check out a complete schedule for all four of the marquee matches on tap for Wednesday along with predictions for each. That's followed by a preview of the action. It has all the makings of another memorable day in New York.
Day 10 Schedule and Predictions
|2014 US Open - Day 10 Schedule of Play|
|12:30 p.m.||Victoria Azarenka vs. Ekaterina Makarova||Makarova|
|3 p.m.||Stan Wawrinka vs. Kei Nishikori||Nishikori|
|7 p.m.||Serena Williams vs. Flavia Pennetta||Williams|
|9 p.m. (est.)||Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray||Djokovic|
|Schedule via USOpen.org|
Day 10 Preview
The main event of the day, Djokovic taking on Murray, is last on court at Arthur Ashe Stadium. That means the friendly rivals could end up playing deep into the night. The last time they played at the U.S. Open was the 2012 final, which lasted nearly five hours.
Wednesday's meeting will mark their 21st, with the Serbian star holding a 12-8 edge. He's also won four of their past five clashes, including their only 2014 meeting in Miami.
While those numbers, along with the fact he's made four straight U.S. Open finals, make Djokovic the favorite, it's impossible to count out Murray. Russell Fuller of the BBC noted the 2012 champion showed signs of returning to form in his win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:
Russell Fuller @russellcfuller
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 Wednesday2014-9-1 21:13:23
Murray hasn't reached a major final yet this season. If that trend continues in New York, it will mark the first time since 2009 that he failed to reach a championship match at one of the four biggest events. But it looks like the back problems are finally a thing of the past, giving him a chance against the top seed.
In the other men's match, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka looks to continue his quest for a second hard-court major title of the season against Kei Nishikori. The No. 10 seed is attempting to reach the first Grand Slam semifinal of his career.
The Swiss veteran has won their only two prior meetings but has been hardly convincing to this point. He's needed four sets to advance in each of his past two matches, with a walkover courtesy of Blaz Kavcic sandwiched in between.
Nishikori, on the other hand, has been playing some inspired tennis. He put together one of the best performances of his career to oust title threat Milos Raonic in the last round after previously knocking No. 23 seed Leonardo Mayer out in straight sets.
Ultimately, how he handles the pressure of this stage of the tournament will play a key role in the match. Given the fact Wawrinka hasn't been at his best of late, it's a golden opportunity for Nishikori, who should be able the seize it.
Williams is the overwhelming favorite on the women's side. There was some minor concern on Tuesday after she received some attention to her ankle during a doubles match with sister Venus, but Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News reported afterward that Williams said it was just a re-tape.
Assuming the ankle doesn't develop into a bigger issue, the American has to like her chances of getting through to the semifinals. She's 5-0 against Pennetta and only got pushed to a third set once, which was back in 2008. The matches since that point have been pretty routine.
There's a little extra pressure on Williams because her results at the majors have been lackluster by her standards. The last time she played all four Grand Slam events and didn't win at least one of them was 2001. She needs to win in New York to keep that streak alive.
Douglas Robson of USA Today notes she's trying to use the big picture to avoid getting too caught up in the moment.
"Now I'm more relaxed," she said. "I feel like I don't have to win anymore. I've had a wonderful career."
Her competitive drive is still there, though. That means Pennetta is going to need a perfect match to have a chance at the upset.
The other women's quarterfinal on the slate should be more closely contested.
Victoria Azarenka, like the aforementioned Murray, hasn't lived up to her usual standards this season. A foot injury forced her to miss the French Open, but a return to New York, where she's reached the final two straight years, has seemingly provided a boost.
She won't have it easy against Ekaterina Makarova. The powerful Russian hasn't dropped a set in the tournament, including an impressive display to eliminate Eugenie Bouchard in the last round. She's inconsistent, but when her game is on she's got top-five ability.
If she's able to maintain that level of play, she should advance to her first Grand Slam singles semifinal. If her play dips, Azarenka is back in good enough form to take advantage.
The match should set the tone for a great day of action at the U.S. Open.