Former champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova cruised through their matches last night at the U.S. Open, while the women’s draw was shaken up by surprises earlier in the day.
Federer, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, needed less than two hours for his 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory against Sam Groth, a hard-serving Australian. The 17-time Grand Slam winner during one point returned a 142 mile per hour (229 kilometer per hour) serve from Groth.
“My arm is still vibrating a little bit,” Federer said in a courtside interview after the match. “It’s always an unbelievable challenge playing those guys.”
Following Federer’s match, fifth-seeded Sharapova beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-2, 6-4. Sharapova’s straight-set victory against an underdog was in contrast to a number of women’s matches during the day session, when former champion Venus Williams, second seed Simona Halep and sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber all were eliminated.
Today’s play at the season’s final Grand Slam begins with 21-year-old American Nicole Gibbs playing No. 11 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Tops seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, the defending women’s champion, are also scheduled during the day session.
All 10 of the men’s top seeds are still alive, versus six of the women’s top 10. Sharapova said, despite the upsets, that her schedule gets more difficult moving forward.
“Every opponent is a bigger challenge,” Sharapova, 27, said after the match.
Federer needed one hour, 48 minutes to beat the 26-year-old Groth. The five-time U.S. Open champion has now advanced to at least the third round in all 15 of his appearances in Flushing, New York, and is 24-1 in night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the tournament’s main stadium.
Groth three years ago was playing Aussie Rules Football, having temporarily walked away from tennis. The No. 104-ranked singles player, he had never before faced a top-10 player before yesterday and said he was trying not to get caught up in the “whole Roger act.”
“You walk out, you get a few cheers; he walks out and the crowd goes ballistic,” Groth said after the match. “I was honestly just trying to focus on what I was doing.”
Venus Williams, who won U.S. Open titles in 2000 and 2001, fell to Italian Sara Errani with the tournament’s most unusual scoreline thus far -- 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (7-5). Williams served for the match at 5-3 in the third, before Errani, the 13th seed, broke back.
“I tried to keep going, not thinking too much about the score,” Errani said in a televised courtside interview. “I was ready to just fight.”
Errani next will face qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, who beat Romania’s Halep 7-6 (8-6), 6-2. Halep had advanced to at least the quarterfinals in each of the first three Grand Slams of the season, including a loss in the French Open final.
Lucic-Baroni, 32, had lost eight straight matches until she came to New York, where she had to go through qualifying to make the U.S. Open. This will be her first time in the U.S. Open fourth round.
Ninth-seeded Jelena Jankovic needed 58 minutes to top Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-0 and reach the fourth round, where she’ll meet Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, a 6-1, 7-5 victor against Germany’s Kerber.
Playing in her first U.S. Open, the 17-year-old Bencic is the youngest player remaining in either singles draw. The fourth-round berth is already her best finish at a Grand Slam.
“It’s amazing that after last year I played juniors here, and this year I’m in the fourth round,” Bencic said after the match. “It’s incredible.”
For fellow Swiss Federer, who’s advanced to at least the fourth round in 39 of his last 40 Grand Slams, enjoyment in the early rounds of a major tournament can come from something as simple as the radar gun during an opponent’s service game.
“I’m aware of every serve, how hard it is after the point when he goes big, because I think it’s interesting and I want to see,” Federer said last night. “Sometimes I feel it as well. I’m like, ’That felt like 138,’ and it might be just a couple off.”