Bianca Andreescu’s emotional comeback after 15 months on ended Wednesday after a second-round loss to Hsieh Su-wei while Serena Williams powered on to the third round dropping just three games at the Australian Open.
Second seed Simona Halep was rattled by big-hitting Alja Tomljanovic but won five games in a row to survive a major scare. The two-time Grand Slam winner was pushed to the brink by the gutsy Australian in a see-saw second round clash before finally prevailing 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in two hours and 34 minutes.
Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek continued their unbeaten Grand Slam runs as the US Open champion thwarted Caroline Garcia with an effortless straight sets victory while the French Open winner beat Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-4.
The 2019 US Open champion was upset by the veteran from Taipei 6-3, 6-2 in one hour 23 minutes while the the 39-year-old American maintained her unbeaten run since emerging from 14-day quarantine with a 6-3, 6-0 drubbing of Nina Stojanovic in 69 minutes.
Ninth seed Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion and Melbourne runner-up in 2019, committed 44 unforced errors in her 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 defeat to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. But seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka was little troubled in going through 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.
Later, French Open champion Iga Swiatek continues her unbeaten Grand Slam run, beating Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-4 in the second round.
Andreescu was coming off a draining first-round victory, in her return after 15 months due to a knee injury on the sidelines, where she defeated Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in three sets and broke down afterwards in tears.
A weary Andreescu appeared sluggish, however, amid the warm conditions on Rod Laver Arena and the world number 71 pounced to storm out to a 4-0 lead. Hsieh’s momentum continued as she broke early in the second set and clinched victory with an Andreescu double fault.
Andreescu was set to make her comeback as top seed in the warm-up Grampians Trophy, but pulled out as a precautionary measure after spending 14 days in hard lockdown after arriving in Australia.
She had not played a competitive match ahead of the Australian Open since suffering a left knee injury at the WTA Finals in October 2019, halting her rapid rise after beating Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows that year.
Hsieh plays Italian qualifier Sara Errani next, who beat an injured Venus Williams. The seven-time Grand Slam winner rolled an ankle late in the first set and offered little resistance after that, crashing 6-1, 6-0 in 75 minutes, departing from her record 21st appearance at Melbourne Park as a disconsolate figure.
Williams, 40, appeared to roll her right ankle mid-point while attempting a volley, down 5-1 in the opening set, screaming in agony and seeking medical attention.
The American had her ankle strapped as she cut a dejected figure, but decided to gamely fight on.
Williams, who also had strapping to her left knee reapplied, was noticeably hampered and could barely exert force on serve as the match petered out.
An amazing 27 years after making her professional debut, two-time Australian Open finalist Williams had beaten Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in the first round.
Serena, the 10th seed started with a sizzling backhand winner and maintained a vice-like grip over the Serb, breaking in the opening game of the second set and sealing victory with her sixth ace.
Williams reprised her multi-coloured, one-legged catsuit – a flamboyant outfit inspired by late sprint queen Florence Griffith Joyner, popularly known as ‘Flo-Jo’. The seven-time Australian Open champion has been battling shoulder and Achilles niggles but shown no ill-effects on court.
Playing her unparallelled 100th Australian Open match, she had thrashed Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 in the first round and faces Anastasia Potapova of Russia in the third round.
Kvitova refused to make excuses Wednesday after slumping out with a tough three-sets loss.
The two-time Grand Slam winner hit back strongly after losing the first set, but her challenge fell apart as she went out 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 after 44 unforced errors and seven double faults.
Ninth seed Kvitova had dominated the match-up prior, winning five of their seven clashes, but a confident Cirstea was ruthless in the deciding set.
It was an impressive victory for the Romanian, who underwent hard quarantine and couldn’t leave her hotel room for 14 days. Kvitova, whose quarantine allowed training blocks of five hours daily, rued missed opportunities.
Cirstea, ranked 68, plays Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the third round.
Hsieh Su-wei (TPE) bt Bianca Andreescu (CAN x8) 6-3, 6-2
Sara Errani (ITA) bt Venus Williams (USA) 6-1, 6-0
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE x19) bt Rebecca Marino (CAN) 6-1, 7-5
Sorana Cirstea (ROM) bt Petra Kvitova (CZE x9) 6-4, 1-6, 6-1
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x14) bt Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 6-3, 6-1
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) bt Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Ons Jabeur (TUN x27) bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3, 6-2
Naomi Osaka (JPN x3) bt Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-2, 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x7) bt Darya Kasatkina (RUS) 7-6 (7/5), 6-3
Ann Li (USA) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-2, 7-6 (8/6)
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) bt Tímea Babos (HUN) 6-2, 6-4
Serena Williams (USA x10) bt Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-3, 6-0
Iga Swiatek (POL x15) bt Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-2, 6-4
Fiona Ferro (FRA) bt Elena Rybakina (KAZ x17) 6-4, 6-4
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS x32) bt Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2
Simona Halep (ROM x2) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
With AFP Inputs