NEW YORK — Hope of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer playing each other at the U.S. Open for the first time was put on hold when the draw came out 11 days ago. The belief is back.
Nadal joined Federer in the quarterfinals by beating 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Monday night. Each must win two more matches for a Sunday final date. So far each has made it through with no panic.
And, more importantly, the man standing in the way of destiny, top-ranked Novak Djokovic, was eliminated on Sunday night. When the draw came out, Federer was placed in the same half as Djokovic, unlike at the French Open and Wimbledon, where Federer and Nadal met in the semifinals.
Now, their 42nd career meeting being their first at the U.S. Open is very possible if not probable.
Nadal is 21-2 against the other three men left in his half (quarterfinal foe Diego Schwartzman and Gael Monfils and Matteo Berrettini, all surprises in the last eight).
Federer is 33-3 against the three men left in his half, with no losses on hard courts to quarterfinal foe Grigor Dimitrov or Stan Wawrinka or Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev, the only other top-10 seed left, is dangerous as the hottest player on tour since Wimbledon.
Nadal has spent just under seven hours on court in four matches, dropping one set and getting a walkover in the third round. Federer has been more efficient the last two rounds, taking 79 and 80 minutes, respectively.
We’ve been here before, though.
Nadal and Federer have been within one round of playing each other at the U.S. Open six times. Each time, one of them lost. The destiny destroyers included other greats of this generation — Andy Murray (2008), Juan Martin del Potro (2009, 2017) and Djokovic (2010 and 2011) — and the outlier Tommy Robredo (2013).
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