Players prepare for a daunting grind

NEW YORK -- After a series of scoops courtesy of ESPN2's Pam Shriver, Andy Murray had the last word Wednesday a little before 5:30 p.m. ET.

"Canceled for the day!" he tweeted. "Don't believe it."

And so, for the second straight day, rain was the only winner at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. A total of 10 games in three men's fourth-round matches were completed.

"I am ready, but look: As much as it's physical, it's mental as well," Djokovic told Shriver. "You've got to stay calm and save as much energy for what's coming up. Staying hours and hours in the locker room, waiting for next call, is frustrating for everybody. You really don't know what's going.

"That's one of the disadvantages of the sport."

Perhaps, but Djokovic was free to leave after that late-afternoon interview and contemplate his quarterfinal match, scheduled for Thursday. For Murray and Rafael Nadal, there is the daunting prospect of playing four best-of-five matches in four days -- if the rain, which is in the forecast to some degree all four days, permits.

For many reasons, chiefly television and ticket holders, a Sunday final is greatly preferred. Tournament director Jim Curley, citing an improving forecast, said the USTA was still aiming for a Sunday men's final.

"Look it's our hope to get everything finished," he said. "We have to take it day by day."

This means Djokovic and Roger Federer, who was also excused along with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from his quarterfinal match, have a major advantage over Nadal and Murray. That's because they would likely get a day off at some point while Nadal and Murray make up the one match they're behind.

Riveting rivalry: Djovovic, who had his quarterfinal match with fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic postponed to Thursday, talked at length about the top of the tennis food chain in his Monday postmatch news conference.

"We played so many matches between each other, us three, four [with] Murray, mostly on the major events. It is rivalry, if you want to call it, that is … bringing a lot of excitement to the sport. I think whoever you play, your game plan is changing. You cannot always have the same game plan for Roger, for Rafa, for Andy, you know, again depending on the surface. So you adjust to it with your coaches obviously before the match."

Djokovic, who has won eight of nine matches against Nadal and Federer this season, acknowledged the weight of carry a top ranking.

"There is this expectations from the top players to get far in any event, especially Grand Slams," Djokovic said. "And I've been carrying this burden, let's say, for a while because I was top three in the last four years and I know how it feels to get on the center court in any Grand Slam. I know how it is to play the top guys in the big tournaments.

"I've got this necessary experience in order to know how to start a match and play well. But with this experience and with the success that you have over the years, you obviously have a certain psychological advantage over your opponents in the opening rounds, especially. After, it gets tougher because you're playing top guys, and that's where just a couple points decide the winner."

Their cups runneth over: Despite the fact that they are all still alive and will face a daunting schedule over the next week here at the U.S. Open, Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray are all committed to playing Davis Cup Sept. 16-18.

Of course, that doesn't mean they'll play. Especially those that are forced to play four matches here in four days.

Djokovic leads his Serbian team into the semifinals against Argentina, and Rafa and Spain will meet France at Cordoba's Plaza de Toros bull ring.

Further down the ladder, Federer is supposedly heading for Australia, where Switzerland is trying to qualify for the 2012 World Group draw.

"It's a very unlucky draw for us," Federer said. "The Swiss were really hoping for another home tie. For us it was tough now to sort of pack our bags, pay a lot of money for flights and hotels. So the [Swiss] Federation is not happy.

"We'll see how it goes. I hope I can get there and play against the Aussies."

Murray, too, is supposed to be in action. He was part of Great Britain's announced lineup that will face Hungary in Glascow, Scotland, in a Europe/Africa Zone Group II third-round matchup.

Exhausting precedent: Although many here have assumed that the USTA would push the men's final to Monday -- for the fourth consecutive year -- there is a precedent worth noting.

In 2003, rain forced Juan Carlos Ferrero to play four matches in four days, although he lost to Andy Roddick in the final. For his part, Roddick played four matches in five days, but his fourth-round match against Xavier Malisse ended Thursday morning, meaning he played at least parts of four matches in four days.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.