Former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova was docked a point for smashing her racquet off the court and then slumped out of the Australian Open to Karolina Muchova on Saturday while current world No 1 Ashleigh Barty made light work of Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Croatia’s 28th seed Donna Vekic had a battle on her hands but got past Kaia Kanepi, who had beaten defending champion Sofia Kenin, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
Barty’s all-round prowess frustrated the big-hitting 29th seed in the 6-2, 6-4 third-round clash in an empty Margaret Court Arena on the first day of Melbourne’s snap, five-day lockdown. She will face Shelby Rogers in the fourth round after the American dispatched Estonian 21st seed Anett Kontaveit 6-4, 6-3.
Barty’s left thigh was again heavily strapped, but she moved around freely to dispel any injury concerns after pulling out of the women’s doubles on Friday. The 24-year-old’s unwavering accuracy and canny slices ended an impressive run for Alexandrova, who arrived in hot form after upsetting world No 2 Simona Halep and French Open champion Iga Swiatek at last week’s Gippsland Trophy.
Barty started loosely and double-faulted to drop serve, but she returned superbly to rattle the Russian, whose heavy groundstrokes went awry. The Australian peeled off six straight games to claim the first set, with Alexandrova requiring a medical timeout between sets for a stomach issue.
Frustrated sixth seed Pliskova was out of sorts throughout and fell 7-5, 7-5 in one hour and 54 minutes in the all-Czech third-round clash.
After Pliskova lost a tight first set, she took her frustration out on her racquet which cost her a code violation. She then walked into the players’ tunnel to inflict further damage, but it was seen by an official who informed chair umpire Alison Hughes resulting in a docked point for a second code violation.
“It’s off court, I’m allowed to do what I want,” Pliskova pleaded. “Not during a match, you can’t,” replied Hughes.
The incident seemed to spark Pliskova, who rattled off five consecutive games before inexplicably falling apart, and she was broken twice on serve trying to close it out before 25th seed Muchova inflicted a third break to complete the victory.
The match was the first to be played Saturday in an empty Rod Laver Arena during the first day of Melbourne’s snap five-day coronavirus lockdown, with no fans allowed and only essential staff on site.
Muchova will play either 11th seed Belinda Bencic or 18th seed Elise Mertens on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Ukraine’s Svitolina made it three straight-sets wins in as many matches through the first week after a 6-4, 6-0 win over 26th seed Yulia Putintseva. It was yet another tricky match after dispatching Coco Gauff in her last one and she has given a good account of herself so far.
She will next face American Jessica Pegula who beat Kristina Mladenovic, 6-2, 6-1, to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS x29) 6-2, 6-4
Shelby Rogers (USA) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST x21) 6-4, 6-3
Elise Mertens (BEL x18) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI x11) 6-2, 6-1
Karolina Muchova (CZE x25) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x6) 7-5, 7-5
Donna Vekic (CRO x28) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4
Jennifer Brady (USA x22) bt Kaja Juvan (SLO) 6-1, 6-3
Jessica Pegula (USA) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-2, 6-1
Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ x26) 6-4, 6-0
With AFP Inputs
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