Maria Sharapova continued her quest to win her second Grand Slam of 2014 on Friday night at Flushing Meadows, with a comfortable straight-sets victory over 26th-seeded Sabine Lisicki in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The final score was 6-2, 6-4. Sharapova started out strong and cruised to an opening set victory, but the second set got away from her and she had to battle past a surging Lisicki to avoid going into a third and decisive set.
U.S. Open's Twitter feed summed up the victory:
It was Sharapova's sixth victory in seven appearances against the German, with her only loss coming in the 2013 Wimbledon. She will move on to face No. 10 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the round of 16.
Friday night continued the trend of Sharapova dominating night matches at Arthur Ashe, as Sports Illustrated noted:
Maria Sharapova is now 18-0 under the lights on Ashe. Beats Sabine Lisicki 62 64. Scratchy match but the last few games were great. #usopen— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) August 30, 2014
Things started relatively smoothly for the No. 5 seed on Friday night. After holding her serve to start and breaking Lisicki's opening serve, it became apparent that it might be a long night to root for the underdog.
Sharapova led the opening set three games to none before Lisicki got on the board, and she couldn't overcome the early deficit as the Russian won the first set 6-2.
The tide seemed to turn in favor of Lisicki once the second set came around, though. Both players broke each other's serve back and forth until Lisicki took a 3-1 set lead, and for the first time all match Sharapova didn't have the legs to keep up with her opponent.
New York Times' Ben Rothenberg noted Lisicki's resolve:
Sabine Lisicki defense--who knew? #USOpen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 30, 2014
The match looked destined for a third set with Lisicki taking a strong grip of the momentum, but it all changed with one umpire's warning. Lisicki was warned for receiving coaching signals from her box.
Cultural Learnings' Myles McNutt believed Lisicki deserved the warning for the obvious nature of the coaching:
Sure, everyone signals from the coaching box, but Lisicki's camp deserved that warning for being so hilariously obvious with it. #USOpen— Myles McNutt (@Memles) August 30, 2014
Immediately after the warning, Sharapova struck. She held her serve with a dominating game to get back in it and turned around to break Lisicki's serve and tie it up.
Eventually, Sharapova won four straight games—including two breaks—to pull in front for good. Naturally, she was excited with the fifth game victory, per ESPN Tennis:
Big "COME ON!" from Sharapova after breaking Lisicki to take 5-3 lead in the 2nd. She will try and serve out the match here. #ESPNTennis— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) August 30, 2014
Sharapova served up 5-3 with the chance to win the match, but her opponent just wouldn't go away. Lisicki continued to put her all into every return, leaving a flat-footed Sharapova chasing and she notched a crucial break to extend the match.
But the inevitable couldn't be delayed forever. Sharapova refused to let go of the lead she had built, scrapping with Lisicki into deuce and eventually pulling out the victory.
Sharapova was relaxed and poised after cruising to yet another night victory at Flushing Meadows, waving goodbye to fans who stayed for the match that dragged on past midnight. Then she proceeded to have a little fun with the media, per Yahoo Sports' Stephanie Myles:
"Hopefully get a goodnight hug from SOMEBODY." - Sharapova makes a Grigor joke, then jibes ESPN for not showing him on TV. #giddySharpy— Stephanie Myles (@OpenCourt) August 30, 2014
The women's draw so far at the U.S. Open has been far from convincing. Top seeds have fallen all over the place, with No. 2 Simona Halep and No. 6 Angelique Kerber only a few of the notable names to have joined the defeated in New York.
But as for Sharapova, she just keeps on rolling. After struggling out of the gates in her second-round affair, she got back to starting strong on Friday and that should bode well for her as she enters the gauntlet that is yet to come.
She will need all of the momentum she can get heading to face Wozniacki, who just uprooted 18th-seeded Andrea Petkovic on Friday.