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US Open Tennis 2016: TV Schedule, Picks for Friday Afternoon Draw

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2016

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, waves after defeating Jerzy Janowicz, of Poland, during the first round of the US Open tennis tournament, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Novak Djokovic got a much-needed walkover into the third round of the 2016 U.S. Open when Jiri Vesely withdrew due to injury.

As unfortunate as it was for Vesely, it was fortuitous for Djokovic, as the world No. 1 was visibly struggling with an arm injury in his first-round win over Jerzy Janowicz and was unlikely to be at his best in the second round.

Fans will get a better sense of his capabilities on Friday afternoon when he takes on Mikhail Youzhny in the early action from Flushing Meadows, New York. 

There are plenty of other stars to check out on Day 5 before the prime-time matchups, including Madison Keys, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic.

Friday's matches will start at 11 a.m. ET, with live-streaming via WatchESPNTelevision coverage will go from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on ESPN before switching over to ESPN2 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. 

2016 U.S. Open Friday Afternoon Picks
MatchupCourtPrediction
Monica Niculescu vs. Caroline WozniackiArthur Ashe StadiumWozniacki in two
No. 8 Madison Keys vs. Naomi OsakaArthur Ashe StadiumKeys in two
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Mikhail YouzhnyArthur Ashe StadiumDjokovic in four
No. 7 Roberta Vinci vs. Carina WitthoeftLouis Armstrong StadiumVinci in two
No. 26 Jack Sock vs. No. 7 Marin CilicLouis Armstrong StadiumCilic in four
No. 14 Petra Kvitova vs. No. 22 Elina SvitolinaLouis Armstrong StadiumKvitova in three
No. 20 John Isner vs. Kyle EdmundLouis Armstrong StadiumIsner in three
No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. No. 23 Kevin AndersonGrandstandTsonga in four
No. 13 Johanna Konta vs. No. 24 Belinda BencicGrandstandBencic in three
No. 10 Gael Monfils vs. Nicolas AlmagroGrandstandMonfils in five
Kateryna Bondarenko vs. Anastasija SevastovaCourt 17Sevastova in three
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Ryan HarrisonCourt 17Harrison in four
No. 24 Lucas Pouille vs. No. 15 Roberto Bautista AgutCourt 17Agut in four
No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova vs. Lesia TsurenkoCourt 5Cibulkova in three
USOpen.org, picks by author

While Djokovic may be the top-ranked men's tennis player and started off the year in brilliant fashion with wins at the Australian and French Opens, he's looked exceedingly vulnerable over the past month or so.

At Wimbledon, Sam Querrey shocked the world by defeating Djokovic in the third round of a tournament the latter had won the previous two years.

The 29-year-old Serbian then lost another stunner, this time to Juan Martin del Potro in the first round at the 2016 Olympics. A left wrist injury, one that's still proving bothersome, forced Djokovic to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open.

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All of this is to say that the extra rest afforded before Friday's matchup against Youzhny hardly could have come at a better time for Djokovic, relieving both mental and physical pressure. Djokovic is known for his relentless commitment to keeping himself in top shape, so it will be interesting to see if he's as capable of recovering from injury as he is at preventing them.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

"To be honest, I take it day by day," Djokovic said, per ESPN.com's Greg Garber. "That's what I feel at the moment. It's good, as I said, just to finish the match. I'm pleased that as the match progressed I was feeling better and better."

According to Garber, no one has played more tennis matches than Djokovic's 84 over the past year. The chance to play the 85th on Friday instead of Wednesday may be just what Djokovic needs to get his swagger back.

As for the Americans in play on Friday, Keys is certainly the top player to watch. The No. 8 seed needed three sets that went late into the night to defeat Alison Riske in the first round, but she got her groove back and trounced 16-year-old Kayla Day 6-1, 6-1 in the second round. Per U.S. Open Tennis, Keys was simply overpowering: 

US Open Tennis @usopen

With 25 winners, @Madison_Keys overpowers teen Kayla Day, 6-1, 6-1 on Armstrong to sprint into third round. #usopen https://t.co/FtgQs3v8rn

A Keys win over Naomi Osaka on Friday would put her into the fourth round, equaling the personal best at the U.S. Open she set last year. 

The draw is certainly opening up for her to advance much further.

Should she win on Friday, Keys will take on the winner of the Monica Niculescu-Caroline Wozniacki match in the fourth round. Beyond that, the highest-ranked opponent she could face in the quarterfinals is No. 13 Johanna Konta, who managed to get through an apparent heat-related breakdown in the second round but could very well be upset by 19-year-old Belinda Bencic on Friday. Bencic is 2-1 against Konta in her career.

No. 20 John Isner is the top-ranked American in the men's draw after del Potro saw off No. 19 Steve Johnson on Thursday.

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

The 6'10" Isner and his booming serve have a good opportunity against unranked Kyle Edmund on Friday, but the former has already played nine sets (three of them tiebreakers) in Flushing Meadows, so stamina could be an issue. 

No. 26 Jack Sock is also in play, but he has to take on No. 7 Cilic, who won this competition in 2014 and is playing fantastic tennis as of late. Cilic is 24-16 overall on the year in singles play but has won his last eight matches, including a win over Andy Murray in the final of the Western & Southern Open.

With several of the top players in the men's draw injured or out of sorts, Cilic could be looking at another deep run at the U.S. Open. 

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