Stan Wawrinka is the No. 5 player in the world and winner of the French Open this year, and Marin Cilic is defending champion at the U.S. Open. Pretty strong credentials.
But if past form means anything, chances are remote that either one can pull an upset in the men's semifinals Friday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium to derail a Sunday final matching No. 2 Roger Federer, who is seeking his 18th Grand Slam, against No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is shooting for his third Grand Slam title of the year.
Wawrinka meets Swiss countryman Federer, who owns a 16-3 advantage in their rivalry, in the second match of the night. In their last meeting, Wawrinka knocked off Federer on the clay of Roland Garros on his way to the French title, his second Grand Slam. Certainly, their recent matches have grown more competitive.
"I think now we are both nervous when we enter the court,'' Wawrinka said. "Before, it was only me. I was nervous because I knew I wasn't at his level for sure.''
Cilic faces an even bigger challenge against Djokovic, who is 13-0 against the Croatian, including nine straight-set wins, the last of them at Wimbledon this year. "Novak is definitely the toughest matchup for me,'' Cilic said. "I haven't found the right formula to win a match.
"But, it's always going from zero, so it's a new match. It's a different stage, and I'm feeling good here on the court.''
Djokovic has plenty of respect for Cilic, who leads the Open through five rounds with 111 aces and has won 82 percent of his first-serve points. But Djokovic is the tournament leader in break points won with 27.
"I'm sure he's going to try to be aggressive, going to try to take his chances,'' Djokovic said of Cilic. "That's how he won last year's U.S. Open. He loves the conditions on Arthur Ashe. I'm going to try to use that advantage and having success against him in the past to my favor.''
The Serbian Djokovic said he and Cilic actually are "great friends,'' but it doesn't compare to the relationship shared by Davis Cup teammates Federer and Wawrinka, who admitted he was a "Fed'' fan first and had to get past the idol worship before they grew to know each other.
"We always laugh together,'' Wawrinka said. "Friday, we're going to laugh together because we have a locker next to each other before the match. We are going to go into the match trying to win. Then, after the match, it's back to normal.''
It was Federer who helped Wawrinka gain the confidence necessary to win two Grand Slam titles.
"I always thought he was a better player than he [showed], but something was holding him back,'' Federer said. "I'm happy he found that level of play.
"I'm looking forward to playing him because he definitely is a big challenge for me. He beat me in straight sets at the French, so I hope I can do better this time.''
Federer was too polite to mention his 11-0 record against Wawrinka on hard courts.