Ominous former world number one Simona Halep crushed the Australian Open dreams of Emma Raducanu’s conqueror Danka Kovinic Saturday to power into the last 16.
The two-time Grand Slam winner drew on all her experience to sweep past the 98th-ranked Montenegrin 6-2, 6-1 in the third round on John Cain Arena and ensure her participation in the second week for a fifth consecutive year.
She will now play French veteran Alize Cornet, who beat Slovenia’s 29th seed Tamara Zidansek 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 on the back of her stunning upset of world number three Garbine Muguruza in round two.
World number two Aryna Sabalenka cleaned up her serving woes to stay in contention, but she needed three sets to get past 31st seed Marketa Vondrousova.
The Belarussian had tallied 31 double faults in two matches at Melbourne Park so far, and 70 from four matches this season, but only suffered 10 against the Czech to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 on Margaret Court Arena.
It was enough to ensure passage to the last 16 where she will meet unseeded Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi who overpowered Australian wildcard Madison Inglis 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.
The Australian Open is the only major where the 115th-ranked Kanepi, 36, has failed to make the quarter-finals.
“I’m really happy right now and mostly happy that I made only 10 double faults,” said Sabalenka, a semi-finalist last year at both Wimbledon and the US Open.
“She played unbelievable tennis today and I pushed myself really hard. I’ll just keep working on my serve and keep hoping it gets better match-by-match.”
Despite her serving yips, Sabalenka found a way to survive her opening two rounds against players ranked in triple digits thanks to her explosive all-court ability.
She brought that to the fore again against Vondrousova after early wobbles.
On a hot day with ice packs out at the changeovers, Vondrousova took a 5-3 lead the first set and while Sabalenka only sent down four double faults she couldn’t turn it around.
Sabalenka also lost the first set in her opening two rounds but found a way back and the 23-year-old responded with the same fighting spirit, immediately breaking the Czech to race 3-0 clear in set two.
She held firm, firing just three double faults, to seal the set and turned up the pressure on Vondrousova with an early break to move 3-1 clear in the third. Two more breaks enabled her to romp to victory
American Danielle Collins staged a remarkable comeback to halt giant-killing Danish teenager Clara Tauson and keep alive dreams of bettering her last-four Australian Open heroics in 2019.
Collins, the 27th seed, was a set and 1-3 down against the emerging star, but turned it around to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in searing heat on Rod Laver Arena.
Her fightback set up a last-16 clash against 2018 semi-finalist Elise Mertens after the Belgium 19th-seed cruised past China’s Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-2.