It's clear that the U.S. Open has moved into its most critical stages.
There is just one match on the schedule for Wednesday night, and all the attention will be focused on Arthur Ashe Stadium at 8 p.m. when second-seeded Roger Federer meets upset-minded Richard Gasquet of France, the No. 12 seed in the tournament.
Federer was certainly very close to his best when he downed hard-serving American John Isner in the fourth round Monday night. The 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory was notable because neither player could break the other until the last game of the match when Federer finally was able to defuse Isner's bombs.
Isner's hardest serve came in at 140 miles per hour, and his average first serve was clocked at 126 mph. The American knew he played well, but simply having a good match is not enough to beat Federer.
“He’s pretty effortless out there and so fluid, how he moves,’’ Isner told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “That’s why he plays at such a high level for such a long time. Pretty impressive.’
|U.S. Open 2015: Wednesday Night Match|
|Roger Federer (2)||Richard Gasquet (12)||Arthur Ashe||7 p.m.||ESPN3||Federer|
|ESPN.com; Silverman prediction|
Federer has been on a roll for the last month. He won the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati in August without losing a set or a game on his serve. That included his championship-round victory over Novak Djokovic.
Federer has continued to play sparkling tennis in New York, as the Swiss star has lost just one game on his serve in his first four matches.
It will certainly be the most challenging of nights for Gasquet, who has been superb himself through his first four matches.
Gasquet has beaten Thanasi Kokkinakis, Robin Haase, 24th-seeded Bernard Tomic and 6th-seeded Tomas Berdych to advance to the quarterfinal.
In the victory over Berdych, Gasquet dropped the first set when he did not play particularly well. However, from that point on, his mistakes were kept to a minimum and he won 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
Gasquet is quick, resourceful and inventive on the court, and his style is somewhat similar to Federer's. However, Federer is just a bit better in nearly every area, and that's why Odds Shark has Federer as a minus-1,200 favorite in the match.
Another thing working in Federer's favor is that he's a crowd favorite nearly every time he takes the court. While there were some American fans cheering for Isner on Monday night, the majority of the crowd was behind Federer.
The same held true at Wimbledon, when more than half the crowd backed Federer in his semifinal victory over Scotsman Andy Murray.
“If I was playing anyone else, the crowd I think would have been more behind me,” Isner told the Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta. “But Roger, you know, he’s a legend.”
At the age of 34, Federer is past the age where most tennis stars play at a peak level. He believes the fans are behind him because they don't know how much longer he might continue to play.
“People might not know how many more opportunities I’m going to have, so they’re going to be emotionally attached to me,” Federer said at the time. “I appreciate that.”
Federer is certainly exceeding expectations for a 34-year-old player. He appears to have enough left in the tank to beat Gasquet and make it to the semifinal round of the U.S. Open.