Australian Open: Home sweet home for Wozniacki as Stephens conquers Melbourne demons

The scene of her sole grand slam triumph feels like home for Caroline Wozniacki, as her performance against Johanna Larsson demonstrated.

Caroline Wozniacki celebrates a point in her second round match against Johanna Larsson.   -  Getty Images

Caroline Wozniacki's Australian Open defence continued with few problems on Wednesday as she breezed into the third round.

Wozniacki's 6-1, 6-3 win over Johanna Larsson saw her produce the kind of performance that suggests she could become the first woman to win the tournament in successive years since Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

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However, another former champion lies in wait for the Dane, and the women's draw remains fascinatingly hard to call after a day where the high seeds enjoyed success.

Yet the third day of singles action was also one that offered plenty for the more inexperienced players to celebrate, indicating that this could perhaps be a grand slam that features a breakthrough winner.

HOME SWEET HOME FOR CARO

Wozniacki needed only 66 minutes to see off Larsson, with the defending champion feeling comfortable at the venue which saw her break her grand slam duck.

After her match on Margaret Court Arena, she said: "I just felt at home straightaway as soon as I got here. It felt amazing to be back."

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A much tougher test awaits in round three, with Maria Sharapova setting up a clash with Wozniacki by easing past Rebecca Peterson 6-2, 6-1.

Four-time finalist Sharapova, whose only win in Melbourne came in 2008, moved level with Lindsay Davenport for the second-most women's Australian Open singles victories, the demolition of Peterson marking her 56th.

STEPHENS CONQUERING DEMONS

Sloane Stephens had not won at the Australian Open since 2014 prior to beating Taylor Townsend in the first round, but celebrated back-to-back successes as she saw off Timea Babos 6-3, 6-1.

Stephens hit 21 unforced errors to Babos' 44, and the fifth seed can now look forward to a meeting with 31st seed Petra Martic.

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"Considering that I hadn't won a match here in a long time, it's great. I'm kind of conquering all the places where I've played terrible - Asia, here," Stephens said.

"I played well in my first round and today, so I'm pretty happy with that."

 

KERBER & KVITOVA CRUISE

Petra Kvitova's best performance in Melbourne came on a run to the semi-finals in 2012, and she appears well-placed to replicate that performance after blowing by Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 6-3.

The Czech now faces Belinda Bencic in the next round, while Angelique Kerber was also able to bask in a routine victory.

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Kerber, a winner in 2016, beat Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2 6-3, ensuring she will have to play on her 31st birthday on Friday when she takes on Australian Kimberly Birrell.

Asked if she would like to avoid playing on her birthday, Kerber told a media conference: "Every year it's the same. I don't know. Maybe it's a good omen to play also on my birthday."

 

YOUNG GUNS KEEP FIRING

Birrell is the youngest Australian woman to reach the third round of a grand slam since Samantha Stosur in 2003, the 20-year-old shocking 29th seed Donna Vekic in three sets.

More junior still is America's Amanda Anisimova, who at 17 years and 138 days is the youngest woman from the United States to reach round three of a major since Serena Williams did so in Melbourne in 1999.

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Anisimova was emphatic in dispatching Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-2 and will now face a player many have earmarked for grand slam success, perhaps even at this tournament, in Aryna Sabalenka.

The 11th seed overcame Katie Boulter 6-3, 6-4 and could face a blockbuster last-16 clash with Kvitova should she end Anisimova's dream run.

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