The sun continues to smile upon Flushing Meadows heading into Day 5 of the 2014 U.S. Open. A marquee card led by Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova will hit the hard courts in New York on Friday in hopes of capturing the season's final Grand Slam crown.
With an injured wrist sidelining reigning champion Rafael Nadal, the field is open for Federer to secure his first U.S. Open victory since 2006, the same year Sharapova claimed her one and only Open title. The 27-year-old can earn her sixth career major and second of the year, but Sabine Lisicki stands in her way for a tough third-round draw.
|Aug. 29||11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||Tennis Channel|
|1 - 6 p.m.||ESPN|
|6 - 11 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Men (Round 2)||Women (Round 3)|
|No. 2 Roger Federer vs. Sam Groth||No. 2 Simona Halep vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni|
|No. 4 David Ferrer vs. Bernard Tomic||No. 5 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 26 Sabine Lisicki|
|No. 6 Tomas Berdych vs.. Martin Klizan||No. 6 Angelique Kerber vs. Belinda Bencic|
|No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov vs. Dudi Sela||No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki vs. No. 18 Andrea Petkovic|
|No. 11 Ernests Gulbis vs. Dominic Thiem||No. 13 Sara Errani vs. No. 19 Venus Williams|
|No. 12 Richard Gasquet vs. Paolo Lorenzi||No. 14 Lucie Safarova vs. No. 20 Alize Cornet|
Day 5 Matchups to Watch
No. 2 Roger Federer vs. Sam Groth
Federer has spent the last few years taking a back seat to Nadal and Novak Djokovic. This tournament, however, represents a golden chance for the 33-year-old Swiss star to corral his 18th career Grand Slam victory.
While Nadal won't deter him in Queens, the top-ranked Djokovic enters the U.S. Open mired in a slump. He has suffered two consecutive round-three losses upon arriving in New York, losing to Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Canada.
It's not often the Serbian sensation is off his game, so the conversely surging Federer needs to capitalize and seize the trophy he won five consecutive times from 2004 to 2008.
His opponent, Sam Groth, is a career 4-10 on hard courts and has not defeated an opponent ranked in the Top 50 all year, according to ATPWorldTour.com. Yet he wields a record-setting serve that reached 163 miles per hour.
His lightning-fast serve led him to his first-ever Grand Slam win, a straight-sets victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas during the opening round.
As noted by The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg, Federer may not know much about his second-round opponent, but the veteran is preparing for Groth's calling card:
"Some big serves, I dunno." -Roger Federer on what he expects from Sam Groth. The whole ESPN interview was fantastically dorktastic. #usopen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 27, 2014
His speedy serve makes matters interesting, but it won't be enough to conquer the savvy, battle-tested Federer so early in the game. Three days after he handily circumvented his first-round matchup, look for Federer to do more of the same on Friday.
Prediction: Federer in three sets
No. 5 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 26 Sabine Lisicki
Maria Sharapova suffered a brief scare during the second round, dropping the opening set to 95-ranked Alexandra Dulgheru on Wednesday before settling down to salvage a victory.
The 2014 French Open champion went through the motions during a scorching-hot afternoon. Despite committing 46 unforced errors through three sets, the No. 5-seeded Russian kept her championship bid alive.
Sharapova admitted, courtesy of The Telegraph, that the temperature affected her play, but she also felt it hurt Dulgheru even more.
"It was difficult," Sharapova said. "Obviously the conditions were tough. You start in the sun, you finish under the lights. Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was and I could have played another few sets. Mentally that helped me a lot.
Meanwhile, Sabine Lisicki cruised to this third-round meeting with two straight-sets wins. Like Groth, the 2013 Wimbledon runner-up brings a record-fast serve to the court.
Both competitors don't fare too well in Flushing Meadows. Lisicki has never advanced past the fourth round, and Sharapova has surpassed that benchmark once since finishing first in 2006. Neither player strives on the hard court, so Sharapova's survival should not be taken for granted.
Expect a tough matchup, one that Sharapova will surely squander if she does not improve on Wednesday's effort. Even after a shaky outing, one of tennis' brightest stars gets the benefit of the doubt for now, considering her 2014 success.
Prediction: Sharapova in three sets