No. 14 seed Victoria Azarenka, a darkhorse title candidate now that she’s injury-free at this year’s Australian Open, moved into the third round on Thursday with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.
“It’s just only going to get tougher, so I really want to keep that focus and that intensity and that determination,” the former No. 1 said after the win. “Really that’s what I’m looking for, to keep applying the same effort, and pay attention to details in preparation before the match. The whole package is important, so I’m just trying to stay and keep following what works for me.”
The “getting tougher” part in the next round will be a meeting with Japanese breakout player Naomi Osaka, who on Thursday upset No. 18 seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4.
“Just heard she has some big — a big serve and big shots, yeah,” said Azarenka, who admitted she knew little about her opponent.
Osaka was joined in the upset circle by German Annika Beck who eased past No. 11 Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 6-3, German Laura Siegemund who shocked No. 19 seed Jelena Jankovic 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, and Czech Denisa Allertova who outlasted No. 30 seed Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Only two of the few remaining Top 10 seeds were in action. No. 3 Garbine Muguruza Blanco handled Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-2, and No. 7 Angelique Kerber defeated Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2, 6-4.
Muguruza won her third match of the year after entering Melbourne with no matches under her belt due to injury.
“I’m extremely happy after today,” said Muguruza, who will next meet Barbora Strycova. “Kirsten is a very difficult opponent with a unique game, so I’m very happy to be in the third round.”
No. 15 Madison Keys and No. 20 Ana Ivanovic set up a third-round encounter with wins, as the rusty American needing to work hard to get by Yaroslava Shvedova 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, and Ivanovic topping Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-3.
No. 21 Ekaterina Makarova beat German Tatjana Maria 6-4, 6-2, and will next meet the winner of the final women’s match that was still being completed late Thursday in Melboune, No. 9 Karolina Pliskova vs. Julia Goerges.
Matches to watch for Friday include (5) Maria Sharapova vs. American scrambler Lauren Davis, (1) Serena Williams vs. Russian comer Daria Kasatkina, and (4) Aggie Ranwanska vs. Monica Puig.
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