The tempo and heat is really lifting at Flushing Meadows as the 2013 US Open reaches the latter stages and only the tennis Gods can explain how recent tip Lleyton Hewitt did not make the last eight.
It speaks volumes that the former Aussie champ was (and on more than one occasion) as short as 1/20 in running yet somehow managed to fluff his lines against Mikhail Youzhny – who to his credit battled like an absolute warrior to win five games on the spin when 2-5 behind in the decider.
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Already, it is clear to see just how tight and pressurised things are getting out there in the New York sun and there are potentially more epic encounters to come starting in the Men’s quarter-finals where reigning champion Andy Murray faces off against old adversary Stan Wawrinka.
The match will evoke memories of the pair’s titanic 2009 struggle under the roof of Centre Court at Wimbledon where Murray emerged victorious after five tantalising sets.
And a similar tussle could well ensue this time around as the Scot, who has been slightly underwhelming so far in his title defence, prepares to be tested by a proven performer who is bang in form.
Following impressive straight sets wins over veteran Radek Stepanek and the giant Ivo Karlovic; Wawrinka cruised past a resurgent Marcos Baghdadis in four before beating fifth seed Tomas Berdych by the same score-line in the last 16 on Tuesday.
The Swiss seems buoyed by compatriot Roger Federer’s recent slump which has opened the door for him to take over as his nation’s number one player at the end of the tournament.
And a win through to the semi-finals will almost certainly see the current World No.9 leap frog the great man in the rankings.
He will need to improve again in order to beat Murray who should not be underestimated despite his displays so far this week – however it is not hard to envisage the Swiss pushing the Dunblane Dynamo to the limit even if he is not quite good enough to prevail through to the last four.
Murray leads the head to head 8-5 which will give him massive confidence but Wawrinka knows he has always been one of the few players on the tour to consistently trouble the World No.3 and his game generally appears to exploit the Scot’s weaknesses.
You could well be justified in backing Wawrinka as the value call at 7/2, but the better bet seems to be siding with the Swiss at +1.5 sets on the handicap – a cracking 13/8 shot with Sky Bet which will pay out should the underdog lose 3-2, a likely result in a contest to savour on day eleven of the championship.