Roger Federer is getting to the net, closing out points more quickly of late.
Of course, when the going gets tough - which it rarely has so far at the U.S. Open - he's sticking to what he does best.
Top-seeded Federer faced only a single break point in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 25 Fernando Verdasco on Saturday and won it with the longest point of the match - a 20-stroke rally he captured by moving Verdasco back and forth on the baseline until the Spaniard finally sprayed a forehand wide.
The rest of the time, Verdasco found Federer doing an unusual amount of damage at the net, closing out 26 of 27 points from the front court. Federer added that effort to the 32 points he won in 47 trips to the net two nights earlier in a second-round win over Bjorn Phau.
"I really tried to play offensive against ... Phau in my second match," Federer said. "I did lose more points than I was hoping to. But I think that gave me the confidence to move forward today. And conditions helped that because it was quicker during the day."
Indeed, the wind and the quicker surface put more pressure on Verdasco, a baseliner who had trouble getting the ball past Federer. It was hard for him to get comfortable against the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who got 67 percent of his first serves in, many at tough angles that drove Verdasco off the side of the court.
"He served well the whole match," Verdasco said. "He always has great control close to the lines with his serve."
Federer, who hasn't lost a set through three matches over the first week at the U.S. Open, stayed on course for a semifinal meeting against No. 3 Andy Murray.
Murray came from behind in all three tiebreakers to defeat 30th-seeded Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4).
The biggest moment, however, might have come a few minutes before the fourth-set tiebreaker when Murray saved a break point in a 24-stroke rally in which he drew Lopez into the net, then pushed him back and finally got him to net a backhand to push the game to deuce.
"There was obviously a lot going on," Murray said. "He came to the net, there was a drop shot, I made a good volley cross court. Points like that can change the match."
Lopez fell to 0-7 lifetime against Murray and was lamenting opportunities lost in the tiebreakers.
In the second set, the Spaniard framed a forehand out to drop set point. In the fourth, Lopez tried a drop shot on match point that didn't clear the net. Those were two of Lopez's 55 unforced errors. He also had 68 winners.
"Everyone gets tight when you have to win the most important points of the match," Lopez said. "I think Andy played a little bit better at the end of tiebreakers."
Murray won his 250th career match on hard court and improved to 104-65 lifetime in tiebreakers. His next match is against No. 15 Milos Raonic, a straight-sets winner over American James Blake.
Federer will play the winner of a late match between Gilles Simon and Mardy Fish.
With two more wins each, Murray and Federer would meet for the third time this summer. They split the last two - Federer winning in the final at Wimbledon and Murray taking the Olympic gold-medal match, also at the All England Club.