We are close to the halfway point of this year’s US Open and as usual, the big names in both the men’s and women’s draws have made minimal fuss in advancing to the second week of the tournament.
In the men’s draw, the big guns in Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer remain on course to reach the semi-finals, with Djokovic and Federer likely to clash in the last four, while Nadal is slated to face Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic and Nadal have not dropped a set between them in the opening three rounds, though Nadal has played one match less after being given a walkover into the third round when Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrew due to the potential risk of another long-term shoulder injury.
The Serb, who is aiming for a fourth US Open title, will face the first serious test of his title defence when he comes up against the man who defeated him in the 2016 final, Stan Wawrinka.
He barely had to sweat in his first three matches, taking care of Pablo Carballes Baena, Juan Ignacio Londero and Denis Kudla in straight sets.
And while his fourth-round opponent Wawrinka, has endured his recent share of injuries, at one point dropping out of the world’s top 250, Djokovic can still expect to be stretched to his limits against the Lausanne native, who is now ranked 24th in the world.
Many of you will remember the series of five-set matches the pair contested at the Australian Open this decade, with Djokovic winning 12-10 in the final set in 2013, Wawrinka pulling off an upset winning 9-7 in the final set in 2014, and Djokovic sweeping the final set 6-0 in 2015.
The pair have also met in two grand slam finals, with Wawrinka winning both: the 2015 French Open and here at Flushing Meadows in 2016. On both occasions, Djokovic was world number one, as he will be entering this morning’s (AEST) clash of the titans.
It will be the first time Djokovic and Wawrinka, who has advanced to the fourth round at a major for the second time this season, have met at a grand slam for three years, and there’s no doubt both players will want to test each other physically and mentally.
Federer, meantime, dropped the first set in his first two matches but was barely challenged against Dan Evans in the third round, winning in straight sets to advance to a fourth round engagement with David Goffin.
Get past the Belgian and the Swiss maestro will face either Grigor Dimitrov or Alex de Minaur, neither of whom have previously reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows, in the last eight.
Overnight, two Australians bowed out, with Nick Kyrgios and Alexei Popyrin going down to Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini respectively, with the pair now set to face off in the last 16 for a US Open quarter-final berth.
French showman Gael Monfils, who turned 33 yesterday, is also on track to reach the final eight but not before surviving a tough five-setter against Denis Shapovalov in the third round, during which he held a match point in the fourth set.
As mentioned above, second seed Rafael Nadal has only had to play two matches to get to the fourth round, defeating John Millman in the first round and then bypassing the second round when Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrew due to injury.
The Spaniard then took care of Korea’s Hyeon Chung, the five-set victor of Fernando Verdasco the previous round, in the third round to book his place in the last 16 where he will next face Croatia’s Marin Cilic.
It will be the first time the pair have met at a grand slam since the then-world number one was forced to retire from his quarter-final clash at last year’s Australian Open due to a thigh injury.
The 33-year-old did however win their most recent clash anywhere, coming from a set down to defeat the Croat in the quarter-finals of the Rogers Cup last year.
That, and the aforementioned Djokovic-Wawrinka match, are the two matches featuring ex-US Open champions (or in the case of Djokovic, the defending champion) that tennis fans will want to watch as we approach the business end of the tournament.
Over in the women’s draw, top seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka has warmed to her status as defending champion, crushing American teenage sensation Cori Gauff in straight sets to advance to the last 16 yet again.
It will start getting tough for the 21-year-old, whose next match will be against an opponent who has beaten her twice this year in Belinda Bencic, who received a free pass into the last 16 when 21st seed Anett Kontaveit was forced out due to illness.
Bencic ended Osaka’s title defence at Indian Wells earlier this year and the Swiss star – who cracked the top ten at age 18 before a raft of serious injuries sent her plummeting down the rankings – will be keen to repeat the dose at Flushing Meadows.
In fact, the 22-year-old boasts a 2-0 record against the Japanese player, her other win coming when she came from a set down to defeat the top seed on the clay courts in Madrid back in May.
As a 17-year-old, she also reached the quarter-finals here at Flushing Meadows in 2014, defeating the likes of Jelena Jankovic and Angelique Kerber en route.
That being said, Osaka will have to notch her first win over Bencic if she is to not only keep her title defence alive, but also remain world number one, because any loss will dislodge her from top spot when the rankings are updated at the conclusion of the tournament.
Second seed Ashleigh Barty and third seed Karolina Pliskova both remain alive in the race to overtake Osaka in the rankings, with the pair well on track to face each other in the semi-finals.
Barty has successfully defended her points from last year by reaching the fourth round, and is closing in on an inter-generational quarter-final clash against the legendary Serena Williams.
The pair had been drawn to meet in the last eight at Wimbledon, only for the Australian to suffer a shock three-set loss against Alison Riske, and in the fourth round of the French Open, where Williams was brought undone by Sofia Kenin in the previous round.
Standing in the way of them clashing at Flushing Meadows are Wang Qiang, who Barty defeated in the final of the WTA Elite Trophy last year, and Petra Martic, who Williams has never previously played before.
Pliskova will face a stern test against Johanna Konta, and should the Czech reach the last eight, she will face either fifth seed Elina Svitolina or tenth seed Madison Keys, who put an end to Kenin’s tournament with a straight-sets win in the third round.
Returning to Osaka’s half of the draw, where Bianca Andreescu broke new ground, reaching the fourth round of a major for the first time and doing so at the expense of two-time runner-up Caroline Wozniacki with a straight-sets victory.
The 19-year-old, who earlier this year became the first wildcard in history to take out the prestigious Indian Wells tournament and won in Toronto when Serena Williams was forced to retire due to injury, is the highest-ranked player left in the second quarter of the draw.
In the fourth round she will face American qualifier Taylor Townsend, who backed up her upset second-round victory over Simona Halep by taking out another Romanian in Sorana Cirstea in straight sets.
The other match in this quarter will be between Kristie Ahn, who defeated former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, and 25th seed Elise Mertens, who defeated Andrea Petkovic, the second round conqueror of Petra Kvitova, in straight sets.
Of the four players remaining in this quarter of the draw, only Mertens has reached a grand slam semi-final, doing so at last year’s Australian Open.
The first of the round-of-16 matches gets underway this morning, with the highlight being the showdown between Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, while in the women’s draw Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova will look to keep their chances of regaining the world number one ranking alive.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams will headline the day session on Arthur Ashe Stadium, while Madison Keys and Djokovic are in action in the evening.
Barty and Pliskova, meantime, headline the action on Louis Armstrong Stadium while Alex de Minaur and Grigor Dimitrov will go to war on the Grandstand.
Arthur Ashe Stadium
Day session – play starts at 12.00pm (2.00am AEST)
 Roger Federer (SUI) vs  David Goffin (BEL)
 Serena Williams (USA) vs  Petra Martic (CRO)
Night session – play starts at 7.00pm (9.00am AEST)
 Elina Svitolina (USA) vs  Madison Keys (USA)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
Louis Armstrong Stadium
Day session – play starts at 11.00am (1.00am AEST)
 Qiang Wang (CHN) vs  Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
 Johanna Konta (GBR) vs  Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Not before 12.30pm (2.30am AEST)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs Alex de Minaur (AUS)