The Latest: Halep cleans up game, advances with ease
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Latest from the Australian Open (all times local):
Second-seeded Simona Halep cleaned up her game in the third round of the Australian Open and spent far less time on court than her previous match.
Halep advanced to the fourth round by beating 32nd-seeded Veronika Kudermetova 6-1, 6-3 in 1 hour, 18 minutes.
The victory came one round after she struggled to find her rhythm in a more than 2 1/2-hour match against Ajla Tomljanovic.
The difference between the two matches was unforced errors. Halep hit 37 against Tomljanovic and only 12 against Kudermetova.
Eighth-seeded Diego Schwartzman has been eliminated in the third round of the Australian Open by Aslan Karatsev, a qualifier from Russia ranked 114th and making his Grand Slam debut.
By far the biggest victory of the 27-year-old Karatsev’s career came via a hard-to-believe margin of 50-5 in total winners and a lopsided score of 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
He is only the fifth man since 2000 to reach the round of 16 in his first appearance at a major championship. He’s also the first qualifier to get that far at Melbourne Park since Milos Raonic a decade ago.
Karatsev never had beaten a player ranked higher than 48th. He now will meet another seeded player with a quarterfinal berth at stake — No. 11 Denis Shapovalov or No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime, who were scheduled to face each other later Friday.
Schwartzman was a semifinalist at last year’s French Open and entered Friday with a 9-0 record against qualifiers in Grand Slam matches.
Naomi Osaka is back in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time since her title run in 2019.
Osaka overcame 28 unforced errors and saved six of seven break points she faced in a 6-3, 6-2 win over 27th-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia on Friday.
“I was really nervous and scared because I didn't know if she was going to hit a drop shot on any ball," Osaka said of playing Jabeur for the first time.
Osaka was stunned last year in the third round at Melbourne Park by then-15-year-old Coco Gauff. She has looked solid so far this year, dropping just 13 games in her first three matches.
Osaka and Serena Williams are the only two former Australian Open champions remaining in the draw after the losses by Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber.
She next faces another in-form player, two-time major winner Garbiñe Muguruza, who has lost even fewer games (10) en route to the fourth round.
The doubles team of Ash Barty and Jennifer Brady has withdrawn from a second-round match, giving Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka a walkover.
Both Barty and Brady have third-round singles matches on Saturday.
Tennis Australia said it was not aware of a reason for the withdrawal, although Barty has been carrying an apparent left thigh injury.
Barty had her thigh heavily taped during her second-round match on Thursday against fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova.
“It’s not a very subtle tape job," Barty said. “Just a little bit of support. I played a lot of matches in the last 10 days after not playing for 12 months, which is natural. It’s more of an assistance than anything else.”
Serena Williams needed a bit of everything, including one on-the-run, back-to-the-net, no-look, over-the-shoulder shot, to get past a challenge at the Australian Open from a player who’s 20 years younger than she is.
A year after a surprising loss in the third round at Melbourne Park, Williams managed to get past that stage by beating Russian teen Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Potapova served for the opening set at 5-3. But the 2016 Wimbledon junior champion double-faulted five times in that game, including twice on set point.
Williams — who has won seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles in Australia — then trailed 5-3 in the tiebreaker. But she took the next four points, the last on a 21-stroke exchange that ended with Potapova putting a forehand into the net.
Potapova, 19 and ranked 101st, edged ahead by breaking to begin the second set, but the 39-year-old Williams broke right back with the help of that remarkable get on a lob. She smiled at herself, assuming the point was over — and then laughed upon realizing she won the point, because Potapova responded by missing an overhead into the net.
Garbiñe Muguruza continues to breeze through the Australian Open draw, defeating Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round for the sixth time.
Muguruza saved all five break points she faced in the match, including while serving for the match at 6-1, 5-1, when she hit a backhand passing shot winner to end a 29-shot rally.
Muguruza, the 2020 Australian Open finalist, has dropped just 10 games in her first three matches in Melbourne. She next faces the winner of the match between Naomi Osaka and Ons Jabeur.
Fans will be banned from attending the Australian Open at Melbourne Park for five days from Saturday because of a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantine hotel.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday announced a five-day lockdown starting a minute before midnight local time, imposing new restrictions that allow residents to only leave home to shop for essential supplies, care and caregiving, exercise and essential work.
The tournament will be allowed to continue as a workplace, but without crowds.
Schools will be closed Monday through Wednesday, and there will be no gatherings for weddings or religious services.
Fans arriving at Melbourne Park on Friday before the announcement were instructed at the entrance gates to maintain social-distancing, apply sanitizer to their hands and pull their masks up over their noses.
The Australian Open was the first Grand Slam tournament in a year to allow sizeable crowds.
After the COVID-19 outbreak became a pandemic, Wimbledon was canceled, fans were not allowed at the U.S. Open and the number of spectators at the French Open was heavily restricted.
Under the initial plan for the Australian Open, the government allowed up to 30,000 people daily at Melbourne Park, or about 50% of capacity. The biggest daily attendance in the first four days was 21,010 on Thursday.
The lockdown is set to end at midnight next Wednesday, when decisions on restrictions will be made.
Serena Williams begins her third round with a day match at Rod Laver Arena against Anastasia Potapova before the action continues with a strong evening lineup on all three main arenas at Melbourne Park.
Opening the night session at Rod Laver Arena and second-seeded Simon Halep vs. Veronika Kudermetova, followed by defending champion Novak Djokovic against Taylor Fritz.
Over on Margaret Court Arena, the all-Canadian pair of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime begin the night session, followed by French Open champion Iga Swiatek's match against Fiona Ferro.
And at the often-raucous John Cain Arena, local hope Nick Kyrgios will be in his crowd element with a tough match-up against U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem.
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