Roger Federer continued his serene progress at the US Open on Saturday to remain on course for a showdown with the man who ended his amazing Grand Slam streak.
Federer overcame strong winds to beat France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 6-3 6-3 in one hour and 39 minutes and is yet to drop a set in three matches at Flushing Meadows.
The five-time champion is looking to reach his seventh straight final in New York and regain the title after losing to Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro 12 months ago.
But he looks set to face Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the quarter-finals, the player he lost to at the same stage of the French Open this year to end his streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-final appearances.
Speaking about his win over Mathieu, Federer said: “I thought the first set was the key. He has some serious talent. We came through the juniors together and he used to toy around with me.
“I got a bit lucky in the first set, he had the first break point at 4-3 and after that I was able to break him back and maybe break his will a bit.”
Soderling needed five sets to edge past Austrian qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer in the first round, but has since dropped just 16 games, the fifth seed beating Thiemo De Bakker 6-2 6-3 6-3 in just an hour and 42 minutes.
“Everybody has been telling me since the draw came out I’m going against Roger in the quarters,” Soderling said. “It’s still far ahead.
“I’m the fifth seed, so I know I’m gonna play one of the four top guys in the quarters. They’re all good players so it doesn’t really matter who I’m playing.”
Before any meeting with Soderling, Federer will first take on Austrian Jurgen Melzer after the 13th seed eliminated Juan Carlos Ferrero – seeded 22nd – 7-5 6-3 6-1.
Third seed Novak Djokovic is also through after knocking out American James Blake 6-1 7-6 6-3.
Djokovic, a runner-up at Flushing Meadows in 2007 and a losing semi-finalist in the last two years, stormed past 30-year-old Blake to take the first set in 22 minutes. Blake delighted the home crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium by breaking for a 4-2 lead in the second set but the Serbian broke back immediately and won the tie-break before wrapping up the match relatively comfortably.
Djokovic now faces another American in Mardy Fish as the 19th seed continued his impressive recent form with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 1-6 6-3 victory over France’s Arnaud Clement, his 19th win in his last 21 matches.
Albert Montanes had earlier become the first man into the last 16 after Japan’s Kei Nishikori was forced to retire from their third-round match.
Montanes, the 21st seed, had won the first set 6-2 and was leading 2-1 in the second when Nishikori indicated he was unable to continue with a groin injury.
Nishikori, who came through three matches in qualifying just to reach the main draw, was possibly suffering the effects of his second-round win over 11th seed Marin Cilic.
The 20-year-old beat Cilic 5-7 7-6 3-6 7-6 6-1 in a match lasting just a minute shy of five hours.
France’s Gael Monfils also advanced to the last 16, the 17th seed beating Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic in four sets to set up an all-French clash with Richard Gasquet, who beat South African Kevin Anderson 6-4 7-6 (7/3) 7-5.