After a week and a half of jam-packed schedules and rain-delayed matches, Thursday brings a minor respite. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Sara Errani take the day off after securing semifinal spots. And on the men's side, with Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych already through to the semifinals, the last two spots in the final four will be decided Thursday.
Here's what we'll be watching.
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB): Djokovic has been a model of efficiency in defense of his title, and he should have plenty left in the tank after rolling through the first four rounds without dropping a set. Del Potro, on the other hand, had to navigate the complicated landscape of trying win his fourth-round match over Andy Roddick while maintaining his composure and managing his emotions. The Argentine passed both tests with flying colors.
The two have played some memorable matches lately, most notably Del Potro's victory for the bronze medal at the London Olympics. That was an emotionally crushing loss for Djokovic, but he got his revenge in Cincinnati, where he beat the Argentine in straight sets by using his tremendous hard-court defense to almost beg Del Potro to hit through him and make an error. Given the Serb's form through the tournament and Del Potro's lingering wrist injury (which mitigates his powerful backhand) I have to think Djokovic has the edge.
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) vs. David Ferrer (ESP): It's surprising that the two veterans haven't played each other in more than four years, their last meeting won by Tipsarevic at the Beijing Olympics. Since then both men have transformed their careers into the best of the not-quite-best. Tipsarevic, in particular, has been a man rejuvenated over the last year. Seeing his younger countryman Djokovic dominate in 2011 seemed to light a fire under Tipsarevic. He rededicated himself to his career, became more professional in his training and, voila, he's a solid top-10 player.
His flashy shotmaking and explosive power are up against one of the most respected men in the locker room in Ferrer. The No. 2 Spaniard, who has spent most of his career in the Rafael Nadal's shadow, has a tremendous opportunity here to make sure Spain is represented in the semis. Facing one of the best returners in the game, Tipsarevic will need to serve well and be smart about when to pull the trigger. Give away cheap points to Ferrer and the match can run away quickly.
Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi (PAK) / Jean-Julien Rojer(NED) vs. Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan(USA): Bob and Mike Bryan are the last American doubles team left in the men's, women's or mixed draws. Still riding the high from their gold-medal run in London, they're feeling invincible right now.
Taylor Townsend (USA) vs. Elise Mertens (BEL): Townsend, the top-ranked girl, won the Australian Open in January and is looking to finish off her year with another junior Slam. The raw, powerful lefty with some deft touch at the net is a fun one to watch. Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Victoria Duval (USA): Remember Duval, the 16-year-old who charmed us with her smile and spectacles as she lost to Kim Clijsters in the first round of women's singles? She's up against another tough draw in the junior tournament in the 18-year-old Bouchard, who won Wimbledon and is already competing -- and winning -- against the pros.