World No. 1 Serena Williams dialed it back to — well, 2015 — on Friday at the Australian Open where rising Russian Darya Kasatkina felt the American’s wrath.
Committing only eight unforced errors to 27 winners, Williams dismissed the Russian 6-1, 6-1 in a power display to advance to Week 2 and a meeting with another Russian, Margarita Gasparyan who defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4.
“Everything I’ve been trying to work on was kind of clicking today,” said Williams, showing no effects of the knee injury that sidelined her before the tournament. “I thought I played pretty well in the other matches, though — my first match I thought I gave a great effort, and my second match, under the circumstances, I thought I played pretty well, I thought. Hopefully with each match I can just keep doing better.”
One match away from a blockbuster quarterfinal meeting with yet another Russian, Maria Sharapova, the No. 5-seeded Sharapova overcame a challenge from Lauren Davis, in the end crushing the American 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-0 in a first-time meeting.
“I was up a break, up 30-0 and just let up,” Sharapova said. “You’re in a Grand Slam environment, third round, and against an opponent you haven’t played before who’s fired up and is not just going to give you the match. I’m quite happy that I was able to step up in the third set — that was very important.”
Sharapova’s final hurdle to a Serena meeting will be No. 12 Belinda Bencic, who came from a set down to defeat the Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
“That’s going to be a tough one,” Sharapova said of Bencic. “She’s an inspired young player who’s been playing incredibly well for the last season. I’m just glad to be in the fourth round. I have a great opponent on the other side and I’m going to do everything to try and win that match.”
Other Top 10 winners Friday were No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska rolling Puerto Rican Monica Puig 6-4, 6-0, and No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro advancing when opponent Elizaveta Kulichkova retired at 6-4, 2-0.
“She started really well,” said Radwanskam down a break 3-4 before ripping off nine straight games against Puig. “Everything was just coming so fast and she was playing with an amazing intensity. I was really in big trouble that first set. In that second set I think I just find my rhythm, and I was serving much better as well.”
Radwanska will next face German Anna-Lena Friedsam, who upset No. 13 Roberta Vinci 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Suarez Navarro will square off against Russian-turned-Australian Daria Gavrilova, who thrilled the home crowd on Friday with a 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 marathon upset of No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic.
“[The crowd] pulled me through in the end,” Gavrilova said. “They were great. I can’t thank them enough. I never had a match like that in this stage. I could say it is my best win of my whole career.”
The eight matches scheduled for Saturday in Melbourne are (3) Garbine Muguruza vs. Barbora Strycova, (14) Victoria Azarenka vs. Naomi Osaka, (15) Madison Keys vs. (20) Ana Ivanovic, (9) Karolina Pliskova vs. (21) Ekaterina Makarova, (7) Angie Kerber vs. Madison Brengle, Varvara Lepchenko vs. Shuai Zheng, Johanna Konta vs. Denisa Allertova, and Annika Beck vs. Laura Siegemund.
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