In the women’s draw at the Australian Open on day four, Aryna Sabalenka showed why she is a serious contender for the title by powering into the third round.
Also safely through was France’s fourth seed Caroline Garcia, a 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 winner over former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez.
Belarus’s Sabalenka swept past 51st-ranked American Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-1 in an hour and 27 minutes and faces 26th-seed Elise Mertens.
Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals at the US Open last year, extended her 2023 unbeaten record to six matches. She won the recent Adelaide International without dropping a set.
It is a marked contrast to the start of last season when her serve completely deserted her, reducing her to tears during an Australian Open warm-up event.
Sabalenka served three aces against Rogers but, tellingly, no double faults. She talked openly about the hard work involved in turning her fortunes around.
“I worked a lot on my serve. You can’t even imagine,” she told reporters.
“Oh my God, I did, I think, almost everything to try to fix my serve.”
American qualifier Katie Volynets dumped out Russian world number nine Veronika Kudermetova.
The 21-year-old Volynets won 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena and then paid a heartfelt tribute to her extended family in war-ravaged Ukraine.
“It’s really a difficult time. Before, everyone used to be able to move about the country however they want to and go on with their days,” said Russian-speaking Volynets.
“And now it’s just, you know, day-to-day.
“I really feel for them and to have their support through all of this is incredible.”
Other seeds beaten in round two were Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, who lost to Magda Linette of Poland, and Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova.
Ons Jabeur suffered a shock second-round exit at the Australian Open on Thursday, becoming the latest seed to fall at Melbourne Park.
The Tunisian number two seed was beaten 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 in 1hr 41min by Czech world No 86 Marketa Vondrousova.
“I think she just got better, you know, in the second set,” Vondrousova said.
“She played some amazing points. I just tried to stay focused and play my game. And I’m just so happy to be through.”
Vondrousova, 23, was ranked as high as 14th in 2019 and is on the comeback trail after an injury-hit season which resulted in surgery on her left wrist.
“It’s always tough to come back after such a long time,” she said.
“I just started in November and I felt good and I did great,” said the left-handed Vondrousova, who reached the last 16 at Melbourne Park in 2021.
“I worked on my fitness a lot and I’m just very happy to be back on this level and to be able to play these sorts of matches.”