Maria Sharapova collected arguably her best win since returning from a doping suspension in 2017, beating defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to reach her 11th fourth round at the Australian Open.
“It was a good win. I feel pretty happy about it,” the 2008 champ Sharapova said.
“A match that I looked forward to and when the draw came out obviously I had to get there first and so did she,” she said. “I thought it was, as usual, as expected, a physical match. Didn’t have to be in some ways, but I felt like even in the longer rallies I did a great job of winning those. Put a lot of pressure on her. You know, those are the rallies that I think many years ago that she used to win. I thought I did a great job of getting a higher percentage of wins in those.”
In this battle of two former champions and former No. 1s, Wozniacki got the better early, leading by a break 4-1 before Sharapova stormed back to take the opener.
The Dane came back to take the second then led in the third before the Russian won the last four games behind a dominating serve in the final set.
“I did my best out there,” Wozniacki said. “I was fighting till the end. You know, in my head I should have won that first set. Being up 4-1, I had a chance to do that, but I didn’t, and then I fought back and won the second set. Then it was a close third set.
“It just wasn’t enough today. I did my best. I did all I could. Just came up short. That’s sports sometimes.”
The 31-year-old Sharapova hit 37 winners to Wozniacki’s just 10.
While Wozniacki falls out of the Top 6 in the rankings, Sharapova moves on to face Australian favorite Ash Barty who booked her first Melbourne fourth round beating Greece’s Maria Sakkari 7-5, 6-1. The 22-year-old Barty who made the Sydney final is 7-1 on the year.
Former semifinalist Sloane Stephens toughed out Petra Martic in two tiebreakers 7-6(8), 7-6(5). Martic led by a break in both sets before the American came back.
Stephens next faces former Australian Open junior champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who overwhelmed Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-0, 6-3 in just an hour.
2016 winning Angelique Kerber knocked out Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0. She’ll meet American surprise Danielle Collins who blew out No. 19 seed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 to make her first Grand Slam fourth round.
Two-time Wimbledon champion and former semifinalist Petra Kvitova rolled into the fourth round without losing a set. She took down Belinda Bencic 6-1, 6-4. Kvitova now collides with the story of the day and maybe the women’s event, and that’s Amanda Anisimova.
Just 17, the American Anisimova routed her second straight seed in burying No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 6-2. The young Floridian has the poise, the serve and the groudstrokes, say many, to become a future Grand Slam champion. And perhaps even next week.
“Probably one of the best matches of my life, yeah. I played really well today,” Anisimova said. “She’s a really tough opponent, so I was just really preparing myself for a really tough match. I was putting it all out there. Yeah, I was staying relaxed, so I was playing really well.
“I was trying to be really aggressive today because she plays really aggressive too and we are both really big hitters. I was trying to take control in this match today.”
The New Jersey-born Anisimova beat Kvitova last year at Indian Wells at just 16.
“I do remember it was pretty hot weather there,” Kvitova said. “I do remember that she’s playing pretty aggressive. She’s serving well and hitting each shot pretty hard. That’s what I do remember. I do remember that I wasn’t feeling great, so that’s probably the first point I would like to change for the next one.”
Tomorrow, Serena and Venus Williams are back. Serena meets 18-year-old Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska. Venus takes on Simona Halep for a sixth time in a match that curiously won’t be on Rod Laver. Halep has won the last two easily, though, at 2015 Rome and last summer in Montreal.
US Open champion Naomi Osaka faces Su-Wei Hsieh, Madison Keys meets Elise Mertens in a match-up of former semifinalists and 2-time Slam winner Garbine Muguruza tries to recalibrate after a 3:12am finish and face Timea Bacsinszky.
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