Andy Murray showed why he has been installed the favourite to win the US Open this year in a ruthless performance against Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round on Monday. Another similar show in the quarterfinal against Kei Nishikori, and the No.2 seed will be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam yet again.
However, to mimic that performance against Dimitrov will be difficult, because it was as close to flawless as it gets. While Dimitrov is not the most feared opponent you can play against, Murray showed skill, finesse, power – he hit his fastest ever serve in the match – and that ruthlessness which is so essential to win majors.
"I played very well," said the always understated Murray after his 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win. "Tactically I played a very good match. I don't think I made any mistakes there. I kept good concentration throughout. Yeah, I mean, it was a really good match. I think Grigor played his best, but I didn't really give him a chance to get into the match."
That will be the plan against Nishikori as well, even if the Japanese will be expected to provide a much stiffer test. Having said that, however, Murray does hold the edge in the head to head record between the two players, with the 2012 US Open champion having won seven of the previous eight matches, with the latest of those coming in the semifinals of the Rio Olympics.
"I think Kei is pretty experienced now," Murray said of the semifinal matchup. "I don't think that will be the difference in the match. I have played well against him in the past. But, you know, he likes these conditions.
"He plays well in New York. He's made his only slam final here. He beat Novak (Djokovic) here. He's obviously I think playing pretty well this summer. He played some good stuff at the Olympics and won the bronze.
"I played a really good match against him when we played a few weeks ago. I'm aware I'll need to do that again in a couple days if I want to beat him because he's one of the best players in the world, plays extremely well on hard court."
Nishikori will know he needs to improve that record, and what better place to do it than in the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam. The sixth seed has not really had a comfortable match so far in this US Open – he was taken to four sets in the first three rounds, before needing all his returning and counter-punching powers to quell the Ivo Karlovic storm, albeit quite impressively in a straight set win.
Murray will, obviously, pose the biggest threat yet, and maybe a match against a serious challenge will bring the best out of the Japanese, who made the final of the US Open two years ago.
Later in the evening the final men's semifinalist will be decided when Stan Wawrinka faces the resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro. Wawrinka has had a few scares en route to the quarters and the Swiss will need to be at his best because he will be up against an Argentine in peak form, ready to put all the injury woes behind him.
Del Potro announced his return with a silver medal performance in the Rio Olympics, where he lost in the final to Murray, and this quarterfinal match will be about the single-handed backhand vs the most powerful forehand in the game.
Where to Watch Live
Nishikori vs Murray is the second match of the morning session, with the first beginning at 12 p.m. local time (9.30 p.m. IST, 5 p.m. BST). Del Potro vs Wawrinka is the second match of the night session. The first match begins at 7 p.m. local time (4.30 a.m. IST, 12 a.m. BST next day).
India: TV: Ten 1 and Ten 1 HD. Live Streaming: Tensports live.
International: Live Streaming: US Open website.
US: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
Canada: TV: TSN. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Europe: TV: EuroSport. Live Streaming: EuroSport Player.
Australia: TV: Fox Sports. Live Streaming: Foxtel.
Middle East: TV: Bein Sports Arabia. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.