(5) Maria Sharapova vs (10) Caroline Wozniacki
The pick of the fourth round matches at this years US Open sees Maria Sharapova take on Caroline Wozniacki in what promises to be an intriguing contest. The winner of this match will play either Sara Errani or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the quarter-finals and will therefore be a strong favourite to reach the semi-finals.
After a promising opening round victory over compatriot Maria Kirilenko, Sharapova labored through her next two matches. The fifth seed was less than convincing in her three set victory over Alexandra Dulgheru before defeating Sabine Lisicki 6-2 6-4 in an error-ridden third round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Maria’s serve was all over the place, the Russian served eight double faults but Lisicki failed to capitalise on her chances. Sharapova will need to play better if she is to defeat an in-form Caroline Wozniacki.
Caroline Wozniacki’s strong form throughout the US Open series has continued in New York. The Dane was particularly impressive in her dominant 6-2 6-3 victory over Andrea Petkovic in the third round. Caroline was as solid as ever, hitting just 11 unforced errors whilst pressuring Petkovic into hitting 34 unforced errors. Wozniacki served particularly well which has been a common theme in her resurgence over the past few months.
Sharapova has a commanding 7-2 head to head record over Wozniacki and has won their three most recent encounters. However whilst Caroline was at the top of her game, she twice defeated Maria Sharapova both in straight sets and both on hard courts. At the moment Caroline seems to be playing closer to her best compared to Maria. The way Maria is playing at the moment it’s difficult to see her consistently hitting past Wozniacki. Caroline’s recent form cannot be ignored, she has a really good chance to make another deep run in New York.
Prediction: Caroline Wozniacki to defeat Maria Sharapova 3 sets
(16) Victoria Azarenka vs Elena Vesnina
Two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka will be hot favourite to reach the second week in New York when she comes up against Elena Vesnina in the third round on Saturday.
Vika seems to be getting closer and closer to her best. The former world number 1 was forced to come from a set down to defeat Misaki Doi in her opening match, Vika’s competitive edge seemed to get her over the line in the second set before she ran away with the match in the third set. Vika made another tentative start in her second round match against McHale, falling 0-3 behind in the opening set. Vika was able to raise her level, unsettling McHale by pushing her back behind the baseline. Vika won 12 of the last 14 games to win 6-3 6-2.
Elena Vesnina reached the third round of the US Open for the first time since 2009 with a tight three set victory over Marina Erakovic. Vesnina’s singles results have been quite ordinary this year however she continues to excel with doubles partner Ekaterina Makarova.
Vika has a perfect 5-0 record over Elena Vesnina; the Belarusian has won each match in straight sets. Their two most recent matches took place in 2013 with Vika comprehensively defeating Vesnina on both occasions. Azarenka should come through this match in straight sets to set a likely fourth round match against Petra Kvitova.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Elena Vesnina 2 sets
(1) Serena Williams vs Varvara Lepchenko
Serena Williams will come up against a fellow American for the third time is as many matches when she faces Varvara Lepchenko for a spot in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.
The world number 1 raced through her opening two matches in New York. Serena’s biggest challenge in her second round 6-1 6-0 demolition of Vania King was the wind. Serena’s serve was a little shaky in her first service game as she struggled to deal with the gusty conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium; she served three double faults but still managed to hold. Once Serena quickly adjusted to the conditions, Vania didn't stand a chance. Serena blasted 25 winners on route to wrapping up the match in just under an hour.
Varvara Lepchenko progressed through to the third round with a comprehensive 6-4 6-0 victory over Mona Barthel. Lepchenko has had some decent results in last couple of weeks, especially in Stanford where she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska and pushed Kerber to her limits. However it’s difficult to see her putting up much of a fight against a determined Serena Williams.
Serena has a perfect 2-0 record over Lepchenko, on both occasions Lepchenko has managed to win just three games. Serena will be looking to continue to build momentum by heading into the second week with another comprehensive straight set victory.
Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Varvara Lepchenko In 2 sets
(19) Venus Williams vs (13) Sara Errani
A fascinating third round battle of contrasting styles sees a resurgent Venus Williams take on Sara Errani.
Venus Williams' 6-1 6-4 victory over Timea Bacsinszky in the second round secured her place in the third round at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010. Venus has turned back the clock in recent months and will be keen to continue her recent good form by reaching the second reach of a Grand Slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2011.
2012 semi-finalist Sara Errani began her 2014 US Open campaign with a solid 6-1 7-5 victory over Kirsten Flipkens. Sara did what she had to do in her second round victory over Anastasia Rodionova. Rodionova dictated play from start to finish but hit far too many unforced errors, the Australian's erratic play was never going to be good enough. Errani wont be gifted as many points when she takes on Venus for a place in the fourth round.
Venus Williams has a commanding 3-0 head to head record over the Italian. Venus has thumped Errani in straight sets in all three matches, the Italian hasn't even come close to taking a set of the American. In their most recent encounter back in 2012, Venus smashed Errani 6-3 6-0 in Cincinnati. It’s quite easy to see why Errani struggles against Venus; it’s hard to see Errani taking a set off Venus here. Errani’s serve will be under severe pressure whilst at the same time she will struggle to make inroads into the Venus serve. Venus should win in straight sets.
Prediction: Venus Williams to defeat Sara Errani in straight sets
(5) Maria Sharapova vs (26) Sabine Lisicki
Friday’s match of the day will be a hard-hitting affair when fifth seed Maria Sharapova takes on Sabine Lisicki for a spot in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.
Maria Sharapova suffered an almighty scare on Tuesday, dropping the first set to Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru. Sharapova looked uncomfortable during the first set and a half, clearly struggling to find any kind of rhythm in difficult conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium. As so often is the case, Maria rallied to force the match into a decider. The fifth seed was always in control of the deciding set as Dulgheru clearly began to tire. Maria capitalised to win the third set 6-2. Maria will need to raise her level in the third round when she comes up against the dangerous Sabine Lisicki.
Lisicki has been relatively untroubled in her opening two matches, accounting for Abanda and Brengle in straight sets. Sabine has only ever reached the second week at Flushing Meadows on one previous occasion, which was back in 2011. After a disappointing start to the season, Sabine’s results are gradually getting better; she is due for a big victory.
Maria has a convincing 5-1 head to head record over the German. Lisicki’s only victory over Maria came on her beloved courts of Wimbledon. Their most recent encounter took place in Madrid last year, Maria came out on top 6-2 7-5. Past results are kind of irrelevant in a match up like this, anything can happen here. Maria is not in the greatest form at the moment, the fast courts at Flushing Meadows will suit Sabine. The German is certainly capable of causing an upset here however I suspect Maria’s competitive edge will get her over line once again.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Sabine Lisicki in three sets