Rafael Nadal crushed another opponent at the US Open on Saturday, only to see his title rival and likely quarter-final opponent Roger Federer later record an even more convincing victory.
Nadal beat Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, affirming his favoritism to win the tournament. The second-seeded Spaniard has lost just 21 games across three matches and has faced only five break points, saving each one of them.
Federer then emerged on Arthur Ashe Stadium and notched an even more imperious victory, dominating Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in a 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 victory that came in just 81 minutes.
The five games conceded brought Federer’s tournament tally to 21 — the same as Nadal — and he has spent only four-and-a-half hours on court, making a mockery of fears that his career was on the wane after an early exit at Wimbledon and patchy form since.
“There’s always a lot of pressure coming out here on this court to perform, because you never know if you’re going to play well, but tonight was one of those nights,” said Federer, who compiled a 34-8 edge in winners.
The 38th-ranked Dodig beat Nadal at the hard-court tournament in Montreal two years ago, but Nadal is looking like the king of hard courts these days, with an 18-match winning streak on the surface.
“I am winning because I am playing well from the baseline and I am making the right decisions in the right moments,” Nadal said.
Before they can play each other in the quarter-finals — in what would be their first-ever match at a US Open — Nadal and Federer must negotiate tricky fourth-round matches.
Federer faces Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo, who ended the run of 179th-ranked qualifier Daniel Evans of Britain 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, while Nadal takes on Germany’s Phillip Kohlschreiber, who eliminated big-serving John Isner of the US.
“I don’t look ahead, even though I understand the urge of the press to try to go there already,” Federer said when asked about the looming Nadal clash. “I have gone through that my entire career, people talking about our matches even before the tournament started. We’re used to it. We know how to handle it. Clearly I think we both hope it’s going to happen this time, for the first time in New York.”
Fourth seed David Ferrer needed nearly three hours to down 172nd-ranked qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. His next opponent is No. 18 seed Janko Tipsarevic, who also took four sets to knock off 20-year-old Jack Sock of the US 3-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-1, 6-2.
Eighth seed Richard Gasquet and No. 10 Milos Raonic set up another fourth-round matchup with victories.
The losses by Isner and Sock meant wild-card Tim Smyczek was the only American man left in the singles draw.
Unless Smyczek managed to beat Marcel Granollers yesterday, there will be no Americans in the men’s singles round-of-16 — the first time that has ever happened in the US Open dating back to 1881.
In the women’s singles, second seed Victoria Azarenka took 2 hours, 40 minutes to close out Alize Cornet 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-2.
Serving on game point at 5-3 in the second, Azarenka pumped her fist and started walking off the court after 26th-seeded Cornet hit a backhand into the net.
The chair umpire had to get her attention to inform her that the line judge had called Azarenka’s previous shot out — replays showed it landed inside the baseline. The umpire overruled the call, but they still had to replay the point.