Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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The consensus around the halls and corridors that live in the bowels of the US Open is that sooner or later, Maria Sharapova will run out of steam, that her lack of match practice and shorter than usual preparation will catch up with her before too long.
Well, Sharapova loves proving people wrong and on Friday night at Flushing Meadows, she continued her impressive return as she marched into the last 16.
Her 7-5, 6-2 victory over 18-year-old American wild card Sofia Kenin, ranked 139, put her into the fourth round in what is her first Grand Slam back after a 15-month ban for a doping violation.
Kenin, who was born in Russia and moved to America when she was very young, played some outstanding tennis at times but Sharapova’s greater experience saw her through.
After two three-set wins in her first two matches, she will have been grateful for a straight-set win, albeit one that had plenty of ups and downs as she conceded leads in both sets before getting herself over the line.
As the former world No.1 Chris Evert, commentating on US television, noted. “I don’t think she’ll be overly thrilled with this match. She didn’t serve particularly great, made a lot of unforced errors, a little bit off in every aspect of her game tonight.
"But she has a very short memory, she’ll move on to her next match. She still won, not playing her best tennis."
Ultimately what matters is I won the last point
From the high of beating the No.2 seed Simona Halep in round one, Sharapova has gone about her business without too much fuss, ignoring whatever has been going on in the background.
Doing things her own way is a Sharapova trait and for as long as she is in the tournament she will believe she has a chance to win the title.
“I didn’t see the ball too well in the beginning, made a lot of unforced errors,” said Sharapova, who now plays Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia next.
“Ultimately what matters is I won the last point, I have a chance to practice and come back.”
If Sharapova is not playing her best yet, the same can’t be said of Muguruza and Kvitova. The pair share three Wimbledon singles titles between them – Kvitova having won two – but current champion Muguruza looks like the one to beat at Flushing Meadows.
It's nice to play someone who won a Grand Slam this year
In a rematch of their Wimbledon semi-final, Tte Spaniard crushed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1. Kvitova looked equally impressive in her 6-0, 6-4 victory over Caroline Garcia of France.
After what she has been through over the past year, Kvitova is revelling in her form and relishing the prospect of taking on Muguruza.
“She has a good confidence right now, I think she's really going for the shots and playing her best, for sure,” Kvitova said. “It's nice to play someone who won a Grand Slam this year. I'm really looking forward for the big stage and for that match.”
If it was already pretty open following the withdrawal of Andy Murray, the bottom half of the draw was blown wide apart on Friday as Wimbledon singls runner-up Marin Cilic, the No.5 seed, was upended by Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. The 5ft 7in Schwartzman had never been beyond the third round of a slam before Friday but he outmaneouvred Cilic, whose backhand broke down completely, and held his nerve to seal a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 win. It was his first ever top 10 win and it set up a match with Lucas Pouille.
Even before 10th seed John Isner was beaten in straight sets under the lights by Mischa Zverev of Germany, no one remaining in the bottom half had ever reached a Grand Slam final before and only one, Sam Querrey, had ever made a semi-final.
Querrey maintained his push with a four-set win over Radu Albot of Moldova and he’ll now play Zverev for a place in the quarter-finals.
Opportunities abound for everyone, not least 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who was leading Kyle Edmund of Great Britain two sets to one when Edmund quit with a neck problem. He’ll meet the highest-remaining seed in the bottom half, No.12 Pablo Carreno Busta, and on current form, he will fancy his chances as he continues his stunning run, which began in qualifying. He’s the youngest man into the last 16 here since Michael Chang in 1989, so he’s in good company.
Sharapova has never been known for her touch but she seems to have been working on her feel in her time away, as this fabulous point shows.
Shapovalov’s win over Kyle Edmund means Pablo Carreno-Busta will have played a qualifier in each of his four matches.
“Because I’ve got a small head”. Denis Shapovolov, asked why he wears his hat so tightly.