Sabalenka trounces Tsurenko; Gauff eases past Parks; Andreeva’s sensational comeback!
MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic finally hit his stride at the Australian Open on Friday as he sent Argentine Tomas Etcheverry packing 6-3 6-3 7-6 (2) in the third round and marched into the second week of the tournament for the 16th time.
The 10-times champion, who was dragged into dogfights in the first two rounds, gave a masterclass in clean and clinical tennis for two sets as he picked apart the 24-year-old Argentine in his 100th match at Melbourne Park.
Etcheverry had seen off 36-year-old Andy Murray in the opening round and 37-year-old Gael Monfils in the second, but found the 36-year-old Djokovic an altogether different prospect.
The 30th seed was unable to land a punch on the 24-times Grand Slam champion, who faced not a single break point, until a flurry in the third set that finally gave the crowd the contest they wanted.
Djokovic, the top seed and reigning champion, clearly did not want to play a fourth set as he continues to struggle with a cold-like ailment and raced through the tiebreak and into the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the 63rd time.
“It was the best performance during this tournament and obviously I’m pleased with how I played throughout the entire match, particularly in the first two sets,” said the Serbian, who hit 34 winners over the match.
“He stepped it up in the third set ... (but) in the tiebreaker I found the right shots, the right serves and closed it out in straight sets.”
Next up for Djokovic is France’s Adrian Mannarino who beat American young gun Ben Shelton 7-6, 1-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Russian qualifier Maria Timofeeva reached the fourth round after a 7-6(7), 6-3 win over 10th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil.
Timofeeva, ranked 170 in the world, defeated former champion Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round and the 20-year-old will face Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the fourth round who beat Elina Avanesyan 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Russian 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva recovered from a 5-1 deficit in the third set and saved a match point to seal a 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) win over France’s Diane Parry and enter the fourth round.
This is Andreeva’s fourth Grand Slam main draw appearance having made her debut at last year’s French Open.
Fourth seed Jannik Sinner underlined his title credentials by racing into the second week of the Australian Open without dropping a set after a 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 demolition of Sebastian Baez in the third round.
The clean-hitting Italian banged down six aces and 34 winners to see off the Argentine 26th seed in less than two hours in cool and blustery conditions on Margaret Court Arena, sealing the deal with a seventh break of serve.
The 22-year-old was the hottest player on tour at the end of last season and led Italy to a first Davis Cup triumph in late November to conclude the season.
Seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was particularly happy with his 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 win over French young gun Luca Van Assche given he had lost the opening set in his first two matches.
Tsitsipas will next face Taylor Fritz, who he beat at the same stage last year on his way to the final. The American 12th seed beat Hungarian Fabian Marozsan 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 on John Cain Arena.
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev beat Sebastian Korda 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 to reach the fourth round.
Coco Gauff is another contender who might exploit the haemorrhaging of top women’s seeds and she looked like she might be about to hand out a second “double bagel” of the day when she raced through her first set against Alycia Parks.
The US Open champion’s compatriot and longtime friend did manage to stall her progress by getting on the board in the second set but Gauff still eased into the fourth round with a 6-0, 6-2 win in just over an hour on Margaret Court Arena.
Aryna Sabalenka took less than an hour to beat 28th-seeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-0 on the main showcourt, sweeping into the last 16 without dropping a set as she did last year on her way to her first Grand Slam title.
In another thuird round match, ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova beat Storm Hunter 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Agencies