While there's still a rain delayed quarter-final matchup to finish (Nadal v Gonzalez), Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have held their side of the deal and find themselves facing off in the semi-finals in New York, just as they did last year.
It's the matchup most people were hoping for and it promises to be good one. The Swiss man will be hoping for a rather smooth run through to the final; however you can read Nole Lekovic's take on it to see why this may not be the case.
Since his May and June grand slam triumphs in Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively, we've heard again and again the echos from the media of his greatness. With all the pressure off his back, there's no doubt he's in fine form, fresh off a convincing win over Djokovic in Cincinnati as well as an extremely good performance against Swede Robin Soderling in the quarters, Federer appears to be hitting the ball as well as he ever has.
Mix this with his vast experience and all the momentum he has from the last five years in the Big Apple, and he looks almost unbeatable. He's playing that type of tennis, that is, as David Foster Wallace might say ''absurdly close to perfection''.
Will win if...
Most of us will agree that when the two of these are on form, Federer wins. All he has to do is be himself. As long as he remains relaxed, as he has done all tournament, he should win. From the Cincinnati final it was clear to see that when Federer is attacking on all cylinders, Djokovic is no match for him. It simply has to be same again from Federer.
If he serves to his usual 65 to 70 percent, and keeps unforced errors to a minimum, he shouldn't have a problem. Furthermore his forehand will of course be key. We saw it badly misfire against Hewitt, but if he has it in shape like he did against Soderling, he'll be feeling invincible and will be a few steps ahead of Djokovic.
The first set is very important, Federer often gets off to a quick start and takes it convincingly, look for that today. Djokovic's backhand is on form, however Federer will still look to exploit it by playing the high bouncing ball deep in the corner of the court. We haven't seen much use of the drop shot from Federer in this tournament, but he may well feel it's time to bring it in and mix it up a little bit. If he does, Djokovic will be struggling. Either way Federer has many options for this match, and with the right mindset, he will win.
Will lose if...
Djokovic is very unlikely to win this match; Federer will have to lose it. In the Australian Open 2008, Federer was not at full fitness, diagnosed with mono, and Djokovic was too much for him in the Semi-finals. Djokovic will have no such luck this time. As I have already said, if Federer is having one of those days he did against Hewitt, and Djokovic is hitting the ball well, it'll be a dogfight. Federer needs to serve to a low percentage, have a miss firing forehand and be in a negative mindset.
Moreover, Djokovic will need to be serving in high percentages, and have a sound game plan to mix it up, as he did in Oz last year. If this is to happen, and Djokovic is scrapping for every point, he will push Federer all the way and may well win the match. The Djokovic second serve could also be key here, as it tends to vary in consistency when under pressure, which it no doubt will be.
We saw how Soderling stepped it up against Federer when he was losing by two sets, just when perhaps he was dropping off a small bit. If Federer starts to open up a lead in this match, he may lose a bit of concentration, Djokovic has to be ready to pounce if he does, as this has proved a fault in Federer in the past.
The weather could play a role in this match. With very windy, rainy conditions, the ball will fly unpredictably at times. We saw Federer deal very well with this against Soderling, and it could play on the nerves of Djokovic.
The head to head between the two is interesting. It currently stands at 8-4 (overall) to Federer, with two of those being the semis here last year and final the year before. However this year's head to head stands at 2-1 to Djokovic, perhaps a reason for the Serb to have confidence.
Lastly, the crowd could also influence this match. Last year they got on Djokovic's back and he fell out with them a bit, it served to annoy him and perhaps even affect his performance. Despite this it seems he's back to his entertaining self and all may be forgiven. Federer will also get much support in his bid for a sixth consecutive final.
For me, I think Federer is playing almost better than he ever has. He's striking the ball very well, serving in decent percentages, constructing points excellently and most importantly, he's relaxed with very little pressure on him, but at the same time he's focusing well on each match.
Djokovic on the other hand has found the form he was missing all season. He's playing very well and looks quite fit, but I can't see him beating Federer. I think if he even was to take it to five sets, Federer is much more mentally stronger and has far too many options to change it up whenever he wants. He still lacks a bit of consistency over long matches and I think it will be hard for him to stop Federer running away with it.
However, I do believe he is going to hit some purple patches in this match, and show some resistance as Federer may also drop off every now and again.
I'm going with a repeat of last year, Federer through in four sets to his sixth consecutive US Open final.