Two Top 10 favorites were upset, while former champions Maria Sharapova and Angie Kerber lined-up a mouth-watering 3rd round match after Thursday play at the Australian Open.
The few top players upholding their favorite status amidst the scorching temperatures in Melbourne on Thursday were No. 1 Simona Halep easily handling former starlet Genie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2, and No. 6 Karolina Pliskova dismissing Brazil’s Beatriz Hadad Maia 6-1, 6-1.
“I still feel pain,” Halep said regarding an ankle injury in the previous round. “But during the match I just forgot about it. The most important thing is I could play my game not thinking about the ankle.”
Halep will next meet unseeded American Lauren Davis who defeated Andrea Petkovic 4-6, 6-0, 6-0, and Pliskova will next face No. 29-seeded Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova who defeated Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-4.
No. 8 Caroline Garcia was the other lone Top 10 winner Thursday, outlasting Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-7(3), 6-2, 8-6.
Players turning in upsets in the heat were Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh stunning No. 3 Garbine Muguruza 7-6(1), 6-4, unheralded American Bernarda Pera defeating No. 9 Johanna Konta 6-4, 7-5, Sharapova ousting No. 14 Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 7-6(4), Japan’s Naomi Osaka beating No. 16 Elena Vesnina 7-6(4), 6-2, and Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich topping No. 28 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 6-1.
“I could maybe have done things better, but at the end she really deserves to win,” said Muguruza, who had 14 more unforced errors than winners, of the 32-year-old former No. 1 doubles player Hsieh. “That’s really it.”
Hsieh will next face No. 26 Aggie Radwanska who worked past Lesia Tsurenko 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Lower seeds upholding their standings on Thursday were No. 17 Madison Keys in blistering form, stomping Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-0, 6-1; No. 18 Ashleigh Barty defeating Camila Giorgi 5-7, 6-4, 6-1; No. 20 Barbora Strycova beating Lara Arruaberrena 6-3, 6-4; and the No. 21 Kerber who rolled past Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1.
Kerber says she is looking forward to the Sharapova encounter.
“We played a lot of matches which I remember were really close and tough,” Kerber said. “This is the matches I’m looking forward to having, especially at the beginning of the year.”
Sharapova countered with the same.
“I look forward to these matches,” she said. “I want to be playing against opponents that are former Grand Slam champions. I want to see where I am on that level.”
Highlights of Friday play in Melbourne includes (4) Elina Svitolina vs. 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk in an all-Ukraine meeting, (2) Caroline Wozniacki vs. (30) Kiki Bertens, and (7) Jelena Ostapenko vs. (32) Anett Kontaveit.
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