Sabalenka overcomes Vondrousova; Halep heats up to reach last 16 at Australian Open

Simona Halep continued her rampaging start to the season with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Danka Kovinic in the fourth round. Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka came back from a set down to defeat Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-3 6-1.

Simona Halep after winning her third-round contest on Saturday.   -  AP

World number two Aryna Sabalenka showed her fighting qualities again on Saturday as the Belarusian came back from a set down to defeat Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-3 6-1 and move into the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Sabalenka surrendered the opening set for the third match in a row, overcoming early serving issues to pummel the Czech into submission.

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"I'm really happy right now and mostly I'm happy that I made only 10 double faults," said Sabalenka.

"She played unbelievable tennis today. I pushed myself really hard and I'm really happy with this win." she said.

Sabalenka's service struggles continued on Margaret Court Arena, with the 23-year-old double faulting in the opening game to gift Vondrousova an early advantage.

But the two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist found her rhythm in the second set, breaking Vondrousova's serve in the second game with a powerful crosscourt backhand before going on to level the match.

Sabalenka was even more decisive in the decider, breaking Vondrousova on three occasions to secure the win and set up a fourth round meeting against Kaia Kanepi.

"I don't want to focus that far, I just want to focus game by game," she said when asked about her chances of a first Grand Slam title.

"I just want to push myself and see how far I can go." said Sabalenka.

Earlier, Simona Halep continued her rampaging start to the season with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Montenegrin trailblazer Danka Kovinic to reach the last 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday.

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The 14th seeded Romanian fired up on a baking hot day at John Cain Arena to completely overpower Kovinic, who had dumped US Open champion Emma Raducanu out in her previous match, becoming her nation’s first player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam singles tournament.

After missing Wimbledon and the French Open in an injury-plagued 2021, Halep is now back to peak fitness and has notched eight straight wins, including a warm-up title in Melbourne.

“Well, I feel great that I can play the fourth round again,” said Halep, who was beaten by Serena Williams in the quarterfinals last year. “In front of this crowd is always a pleasure, so thank you everybody for staying in this heat because it’s super hot today.”

Twice Grand Slam champion Halep, who reached the 2018 final at Melbourne Park, will play France’s Alize Cornet for a place in the quarterfinals. “I feel like I played great, (Kovinic) was a little bit tired, she had a tough match before me,” added Halep.

“I feel good, more confident now because last year was a tough year and now I just enjoy playing tennis because I’m healthy.”

Cornet's comeback victory

Alize Cornet celebrated her 32nd birthday by staging a stunning comeback to reach the second week at the Australian Open on Saturday -- 13 years after the Frenchwoman last made the fourth round at the Melbourne Park major.

The former world number 11 fought back from a set and a double-break down to beat 29th-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 43 minutes at Margaret Court Arena.

Cornet, who has slipped to 61st in the rankings and has said the 2022 season could be her last on Tour, said she was moved after the crowd sang 'Happy Birthday' to her.

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