As the U.S. Open approaches the halfway point, tennis fans can look forward to superstars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal continuing their march towards an epic confrontation in the tournament's semifinal round.
Federer has been victorious in his first two matches, although he has needed five sets to get past his unseeded opponents. Nadal has not been pushed as hard in his two victories, and he may have more gas in the tank if these two rivals eventually meet.
Both men will be in action Saturday as they try to extend their runs in the fourth and last Grand Slam event of the year.
ESPN2 will broadcast throughout the afternoon and night-time sessions at the U.S. Open, and the network will remain on the air until 11 p.m. The Tennis Channel will have its nightly wrap-up show at 11 p.m.
Nadal, the top seed in the tournament and the No. 1-ranked player in the world, will meet unseeded Argentine Leonardo Mayer at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a 3 p.m. ET match, while Federer will face Feliciano Lopez of Spain, the tournament's 31st-seeded player. That match is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Ashe.
Nadal defeated Dusan Lajovic in straight sets in the opening round, although he was pushed hard in the first set and won it in a tiebreaker. He defeated Taro Daniel of Japan in the second round by a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 margin.
Nadal got off to slow starts in both matches, but he played much sharper tennis as the match moved along. He was not surprised that Daniel won the first set because every opponent he faces comes out with a tremendous effort.
"All the matches are difficult but especially here as everyone wants to play their best, and if you don't play your best it will be very difficult," Nadal said, per the Japan Times.
Federer got by Frances Tiafoe in the first round and Mikhail Youzhny in the second round, and while he knows he hasn't played his best tennis, he has been able to endure the difficulties and get through to the third round.
Federer tried to look at the five-set matches as a positive. "It wasn't always like this back then," Federer said, per Christian Red of the New York Daily News. "These five-set battles are quite a lot of fun. I feel warmed up now."
Federer's main problem has been too many unforced errors, and that's something that he could eliminate as the tournament progresses. However, it will not be easy for the 36-year-old to survive and advance.
Lopez has beaten his first two opponents in four sets each. He outdueled Andrey Kuznetsov in the first round and got by Fernando Verdasco in the second round.
On the women's side, 17th-seeded Elena Vesnina of Russia takes on 15th-seeded Madison Keys at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a 9:30 p.m. match.
Vesnina has been on a roll in New York, winning her first two matches in straight sets over Anna Blinkova and Kirsten Flipkens. The 31-year-old Vesnina is having an excellent season and has won more than $2.2 million in 2017.
Keys has defeated Elise Mertens and Tatjana Maria, and both of those victories came in straight sets. The 22-year-old Keys has not been on top of her game this year, having won less than $500,000. However, she is off to a good start in New York and could fulfill her potential at the U.S. Open.
Keys has never been past the third round in any Grand Slam tournament.