US Open Tennis 2011: 5 Things to Watch for on Day 5

Tom LoughreyAnalyst IIISeptember 2, 2011

US Open Tennis 2011: 5 Things to Watch for on Day 5

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    Day 5 at the US Open will be yet another action-packed day at Flushing Meadows.

    Top seeds are still matching up with players looking to record their first highlight win in a Grand Slam, which should translate into some exciting matches on Friday.

    The biggest names to take the court on Day 5 are Vera Zvonareva, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

    Here's five things to keep your eyes on Friday at the US Open.

1. Which Maria Sharapova Will Show Up?

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    First-round Maria Sharapova: This version of the Russian superstar was very shaky, spraying balls all over the court in a three-set win over Heather Watson.

    Second-round Maria Sharapova: Sharapova was spot-on Wednesday, firing winners left and right as she only dropped two games. Maria served 70 percent and converted five of six break-point opportunities in the decisive win over Anastasiya Yakimova.

    Now, Sharapova is set to match up with No. 26 Flavia Pennetta. A performance like the one she posted against Watson will mean a third-round exit for Sharapova.

    However, Sharapova will come out ready to play, and will send Pennetta home in two sets.

2. Can Christina McHale and Irina Falconi Keep It Up?

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    Christina McHale and Irina Falconi were huge winners on Wednesday, both upsetting top 15 players in their second-round singles matches.

    Now it's time for the third round, and the American youngsters will both see another seeded player. In order to keep their dreams alive, they'll need to be at the top of their games yet again.

    McHale is faced with Russian Maria Kirlenko, the No. 25 seed. Kirilenko fought back from a set down in the first round and was dominant in the second.

    Falconi is up against Sabine Lisicki, who hasn't played since Monday. The German can really punish the ball, and is one of my sleeper picks to make a deep run.

    Falconi will be dismissed by Lisicki, and McHale will keep the run alive in a third-set tiebreaker.

3. New vs. Old in American Men's Tennis

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    Friday will feature two intriguing all-American matches at the US Open.

    John Isner will look to take the torch from Robby Ginepri in Louis Armstrong Stadium in the early afternoon. Isner is the heavy favorite to come through, but Ginepri showed in the first round that he's not ready to hang them up just yet.

    They've split their two previous matches, and I think Ginepri will push him to two tiebreakers, but fall in straight sets.

    The other showdown is the final night match on Friday. Jack Sock is the young gun looking to upend perennial power Andy Roddick. Although Roddick is not ready to call it a tournament, he might as well if he's not willing to move in a little closer to the baseline.

    Roddick has been relying on his defensive skills to keep him in matches, refusing to flatten the ball out and be aggressive. If he stays five or so feet behind the baseline against Sock, he'll get to see Sock's tremendous forehand.

    Roddick's experience will reign victorious in four sets, but Sock will make him sweat.

4. Former Top Five Players Battle It out on Court 13

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    Back in the days when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were winning every Grand Slam, there was another war being waged.

    Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian were in an ongoing battle for the distinction of the best player in the world not named Federer or Nadal. Both Ljubicic and Nadal were No. 3 in the world in 2006, and have seen their careers tail off since that point.

    However, Ljubicic and Nalbandian still have a lot to offer the game. They both took their first-round match in four sets, and will be fighting for the chance to play none other than Nadal, provided he gets the job done against Nicolas Mahut.

    Ljubicic holds a slight edge with a 5-3 record, but Nalbandian won the only matchup of this decade in straight sets.

    Nalbandian will tire Ljubicic with his pinpoint accuracy on the ground, and triumph in five sets.

5. Will We See Another Run from James Blake at the US Open?

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    James Blake will enter the Grandstand court sometime after 5 PM ET to try and give the fans another show at the US Open.

    The J-Block will be in full force, cheering on the Harvard graduate as he looks to pull off a huge upset at his favorite tournament. His opponent, David Ferrer, is No. 5 in the world and playing the best tennis of his life this season, reaching a Grand Slam semifinal in Australia.

    For the second time in his career, Blake used the Challenger tour to regain his confidence. Blake never deserted his flat, hard strokes and early ball-striking, which have received tons of flak from followers of the game.

    Blake plays one brand of tennis, and if he's not succeeding, then he will lose. He's 2-0 against Ferrer, even dealing a loss to the Spaniard, 6-1, 6-4, in 2010.

    I'm pulling for Blake here, but I know it's a long shot.

    I'll leave you with three words: Watch this match.