Most of the marquee names are still standing as the 2014 US Open nears its first weekend. Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams are among the notable players in action Friday looking to keep their title hopes alive at the season's final major.
The tournament hasn't needed a bunch of huge upsets to remain entertaining. Some of the top players have been seriously tested in their first couple matches but have managed to survive. It's a win-win situation for tennis fans, who get close matches while keeping intriguing matchups on the table.
With that in mind, let's check out all of the important bracket and schedule details for Day 5. It's followed by a breakdown of the best matches on tap during Friday's slate.
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Day 5 Matches to Watch
Sara Errani vs. Venus Williams
Hopes were high coming into the event for a revitalized Williams. She enjoyed some strong showings during the US Open Series, including a trip to the final in Montreal. So when she lost the first set to Kimiko Date-Krumm in the opening round, it appeared she might let the positive vibes slip away.
Who will advance to the US Open 4th Round?
Williams was able to right the ship and complete the comeback, then eased past Timea Bacsinszky in Round 2. Errani, the No. 13 seed, represents a step up in the level of competition, though. She's scored two straight-set victories to open her run in New York.
Williams won each of their previous three meetings, including a pair on hard courts, but they haven't faced off since 2012. While a lot has changed since that point, the longtime star's return to form makes her the favorite heading into the match.
It's a good litmus test for the elder Williams sister. She's in a tough section of the draw, but if she plays well and advances, it will be hard to discount her chances moving forward. Errani is of course hoping to end the feel-good story before it has a chance to pick up steam.
Sam Groth vs. Roger Federer
It's no secret the US Open is a great opportunity for Federer to claim another major title. Rafael Nadal remains sidelined due to injury and Andy Murray isn't in top form. It leaves the Swiss sensation and Novak Djokovic as the clear top two on the men's side.
Federer opened with a win over Marinko Matosevic. Even though he advanced in straight sets, it remained pretty close throughout. Michael Beattie of ESPN UK passed along post-match comments from the five-time tournament champion, who was happy just to avoid another set.
"It's good to come through a tie-break, that's for sure," Federer said. "Marinko tried to change up his game, tried to serve and volley. I thought tonight was quite good fun."
He faces another Aussie in the second round in Sam Groth. This marks the first time he's advanced beyond the opening round of a Grand Slam event. That said, he played very well to cruise past Albert Ramos-Vinolas, hitting 12 aces with just six unforced errors.
It's a match Federer should win, but it will be interesting to see if he can take control a little quicker than he did against Matosevic. Getting off the court quickly while steadily improving with each match will put him in good shape for the business end of the event.
Maria Sharapova vs. Sabine Lisicki
Sharapova has reached the semifinals in New York just once since winning the title in 2006. It's a drought she will be forced to work hard to end in a difficult part of the draw, as illustrated by a third-round clash with Lisicki.
The Russian holds a 5-1 edge in their prior meetings, but both players are prone to inconsistent play, leading to some interesting matches. Sam Davis of Around The Post noted the intrigue surrounding the match should both play well Friday:
Tomorrow's OOP is fantastic. Especially looking forward to Sharapova-Lisicki (providing they both decide to hit the ball IN the court).— Sam Davis (@Around_ThePost) August 29, 2014
Sharapova in particular has made a habit out of dropping the first set before coming back to win. It's a dangerous style of play that she would prefer to avoid, but it almost seems like she needs her back against the wall before she starts playing her best.
The question for Lisicki is how she will respond to the sharp increase in the competition level. She made quick work of lower-ranked opponents in the first two rounds, but the power of Sharapova will pose a test she will need to be at her peak to pass.