Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova stunned defending champion Caroline Wozniacki to reach the Australian Open fourth round Friday after an epic three-set match.
The Russian, who is seeded 30 at Melbourne Park, bundled Denmark’s world number three Wozniacki out of the tournament 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a last 16 clash with local hope Ash Barty.
Meanwhile, unseeded American teenager Amanda Anisimova continued a dream run, ousting 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets to make the fourth round, and has her sights set high.
Anisimova upset the Belarusian 6-3, 6-2 in 65 minutes to set up a last 16 meeting with either eighth seeded Czech Petra Kvitova or Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic.
Second seed Angelique Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The German Wimbledon champion swept world number 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last 16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
At 17 years and five months, Florida-based Anisimova, whose parents are Russian, is the youngest player left in the tournament. She is making her debut appearance at Melbourne Park and her only other two Grand Slam appearances at the French and US Opens have ended in first-round exits.
“This is an unreal feeling, I can’t believe that this is happening right now,” she said.
Ranked 87 in the world, she reached the quarter-finals in Auckland this month and said she modelled herself on Maria Sharapova, who was the last teenager to win a Grand Slam.
“I would want to be the (next) person to win a Slam as a teenager,” she said.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova’s said her dominant form was still improving as she roared into the Australian last 16 with another two-set victory. The Czech eighth seed swept past Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-1, 6-4 in 68 minutes to set up a round four clash with American teenager Amanda Anisimova.
The 28-year-old has been in strong form leading into the season-opening Grand Slam, winning last week’s Sydney International. Kvitova’s best result at Melbourne Park was a run to the semi-finals in 2012 but she is looking threatening this year as she relentlessly advances while staying under the radar.
Local hope Ash Barty bounced Greece’s Maria Sakkari from the Australian Open third round and revealed she planned to celebrate by watching the Australian cricket team in action against India.
Barty, seeded 15, saw off the unseeded Sakkari 7-5, 6-1 in 82 minutes to reach the last 16, her best performance at Melbourne Park after third round appearances in 2018 and 2017.
She is yet to drop a set and finished in time to see the start of Australia’s third one-day international against India at the neighbouring Melbourne Cricket Ground.
American fifth seed Sloane Stephens outlasted 31st seed Petra Martic of Croatia in a battle of attrition at Melbourne Park.
Former US Open champion Stephens, a semi-finalist Down Under in 2013, won 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/5) to set up a last 16 clash with Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to the last 16 with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
Unseeded Pavlyuchenkova, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2017, will meet either American fifth seed Sloane Stephens or Croatian Petra Martic, the 31st seed, in the next round.
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x15) bt Maria Sakkari (GRE) 7-5, 6-1
Amanda Anisimova (USA) bt Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x11) 6-3, 6-2
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 6-0, 6-3
Maria Sharapova (RUS x30) bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x3) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Sloane Stephens (USA x5) bt Petra Martic (CRO x31) 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5)
Petra Kvitova (CZE x8) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-1, 6-4
Danielle Collins (USA) bt Caroline Garcia (FRA x19) 6-3, 6-2
With inputs from AFP