World No 1 Rafael Nadal is ready to take on the US Open’s surprise package Andrey Rublev and look to remain on course for his third title in New York.
The top seed found his form after a couple of shaky early performances to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov for the loss of just seven games and reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2013.
If he can defeat Rublev, and Federer keeps up his end of the bargain, there will be a first clash between the two great rivals in New York.
Rublev is the most surprising of the quarter-finalists and, at 19, the youngest man to reach this stage at the US Open since Andy Roddick 16 years ago, but the Russian is the first of the next generation to make the last eight at a major.
He knocked out his second top-10 seed but was helped by David Goffin’s knee injury, the ninth seed struggling on serve as his teenage opponent wrapped up a straight sets victory.
Rublev grew up idolising Nadal, along with countryman Marat Safin, and said: “Rafa’s the real champion. I’m just going to try to enjoy, I have nothing to lose.”
Nadal does not buy that approach, saying: “Of course he’s young but, at the same time, he’s in the quarter-finals. He has a chance to be in the semi-finals for the first time in his career, and I have been there a couple of times.
“So of course he has things to lose. And of course, I have things to lose and things to win. But this sport is about victory. This is not about defeats. At the end of your career, nobody remembers the defeats.
“Of course he’s young, and when you are young you feel that everything is new. But he already won a lot of matches on the tour. He’s not a kid that he came now in this event.
“He’s a great guy. He has been in Majorca practising with me a couple of years ago.”
Nadal would not swap his career, of course, but he does envy Rublev’s youth.
“If I can come back to 19, I take it,” he said with a smile. “That’s the best part because normally you have a lot more years to enjoy the tour, a lot more years to enjoy life.
“Of course, it’s better to be 19 than 31. I always wanted to be young. Even when I was eight years old, I was not very happy when it was my birthday. It’s still the same.
“I am happy being young. I don’t want to get older. For the moment, I didn’t find the way to stop that watch.”
Sky Sports Tennis will have all the action from the US Open covered via our website www.skysports.com/tennis with our live blogs and updates throughout the fortnight as the Grand Slam year reaches its climax.
On the move? Head to our app for mobile devices and iPad, or follow our Twitter account @SkySportsTennis to join in the conversation. Who will win the US Open titles this year? Have your say…
We will also have coverage of the World Tour Finals in November with every match live on Sky Sports.