Australian Open: Simona Halep survives 28-game final set slugfest

Georgia Reed
January 21, 2018

The big match Saturday had the only two women's major champions left in the tournament playing each other - 2008 Australian victor Maria Sharapova vs. 2016 Melbourne Park champion Angelique Kerber.

The Rod Laver Arena evening clash between the only two Grand Slam winners left in the women's draw had the feel of a showpiece final rather than a third-round clash but it was Kerber who rose to the occasion.

Back in Melbourne for the first time since testing positive to the banned substance Meldonium two years ago, Sharapova was delighted at only needing two sets to oust Latvian counter-puncher Anastasija Sevastova.

Breaking serve five times, Kerber took just little over four minutes to win the match.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic hold court Saturday as they work to keep a potential Australian Open semi-final showdown on track, while top seed Simona Halep resumes her low-key title charge.

Kerber, who won at Melbourne Park in 2016, won 86% of points on her first serve while Sharapova could only manage 37%.

It was billed as the tussle between the last remaining former Australian Open champions in the draw, both former world No.1s and multiple slam winners, both mounting comebacks after an annus horribilis in 2017. She's always risky, especially at the grand slams.

"I'm looking forward to the thirties".

But her first serve was a liability on Saturday night, when she put just 38 percent into play.

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"It's good to win on my birthday and it's always a tough match against Donna".

She started the match in strong fashion, not offering her opponent any break points, and took both break point chances she had during an easy first set.

Halep will play the victor of Saturday's later match between local hope Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia.

Federer entered the Australian Open past year under similar circumstances, coming off an extended break for a knee injury, and went on to win the title.

The Ipswich 21-year-old went down in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, but the numbers don't tell the full story of a game that was a tour de force for the visitor and a shocking anticlimax for Barty, who walked onto Margaret Court Arena accompanied by the hopes of a nation.

Another unexpected loss at a major had the highly touted Zverev admitting he may have a problem.

Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to set up a fourth-round match against Tennys Sandgren, who continued his career-best run by beating Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5). Dabrowski and partner Mate Pavic of Croatia defeated Australians Alex Bolt and Lizette Cabrera 6-3, 7-5.

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