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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Defending champion Sabalenka reaches fourth round at Australian Open; Gauff also advances easily

    Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus plays a forehand return to Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine during their third-round match Friday at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP Photo)
    Coco Gauff of the U.S. takes a selfie for a fan following her third-round win over compatriot Alycia Parks at the Australian Open on Friday. (Andy Wong/AP Photo)
    Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand return to Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina during their third-round match Friday at the Australian Open. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP Photo

    Melbourne, Australia — Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff swept to commanding wins at the Australian Open on Friday to reach the fourth round.

    Second-seeded Sabalenka beat Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-0 in 52 minutes while No. 4-seeded Gauff lost just two games in beating fellow American Alycia Parks 6-0, 6-2.

    Sabalenka, who won her first Grand Slam title here 12 months ago, has dropped just six games in three rounds.

    “Last year, Iga (Swiatek) won so many sets 6-0 and this is one of the goals, to try to get closer to her,” Sabalenka joked. “I’m just super-happy with the level I’m playing so far. Hopefully I can just keep going like that or even better.”

    The pair did not shake hands — as is the convention for Ukrainian players against opponents from Russia or Belarus, where Sabalenka is from — but Tsurenko congratulated Sabalenka verbally.

    Sabalenka will play Amanda Anisimova, who continued her comeback with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Paula Badosa. Anisimova, who took seven months out of the game last year for mental health reasons, hit 40 winners on her way to the fourth round.

    “It’s quite unbelievable,” the American said. “For sure taking a step away from the game ... gave me a new perspective. I’m trying to be in the present. I think in the past I was getting too caught up in the past and the future.”

    Sabalenka said she expects a tough match against Anisimova, who has won four of their five matches.

    “She’s an incredible player and I’m really happy to see her back,” Sabalenka said.

    Gauff played an almost flawless match as she beat Parks in 61 minutes, making just eight unforced errors to the 34 of her less experienced opponent.

    Sixteen-year-old Mirra Andreeva continued her remarkable Australian Open debut when she rallied from 5-1 down in the third set to beat Diane Parry 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5).

    The Russian player was in tears when she was one game from defeat but she produced a brilliant comeback, saving a match point at 2-5 before winning the deciding tiebreak 10-5.

    Andreeva will next play No. 9 Barbora Krejcikova, who fended off Storm Hunter 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in a night match.

    Novak Djokovic opened the night session with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory over Tomas Martin Etcheverry in his 100th match at the Australian Open.

    The 10-time Australian titlist's career record is 92-8 at the season-opening major and he'll take a 31-match winning streak at Melbourne Park into his fourth-round encounter against No. 20 Adrian Mannarino, who held off U.S. Open semifinalist Ben Shelton in five sets.

    No. 4 Jannik Sinner, who had two wins late last year over Djokovic, moved into the fourth round without losing a set, thanks to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Sebastian Baez.

    The Italian won 18 of 25 points at the net as he set up a fourth-round match with 15th-seeded Karen Khachanov, who beat Tomas Machac 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5).

    “I loved the conditions today because there was no wind and no sun,” Sinner said. “I felt great on the ball. I made the right decisions, and I used every chance I had.”

    No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas was equally impressive, beating Luca Van Assche 6-3, 6-0, 6-4. He’ll meet No. 12 Taylor Fritz, who defeated Fabian Morozsan 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

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