Sharapova eliminates holder Wozniacki at Australian Open

  • 18 Jan 2019

Russia's Maria Sharapova screamed in delight after converting her third breakpoint in the seventh game of the third set with a scorching forehand to break defending champion Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki and seal victory.

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her third-round match against Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, the defending champion, at the Australian Open in Melbourne, on January 18, 2019. ( Aly Song / Reuters )

Maria Sharapova scorched the Rod Laver Arena with her aggressive tennis to eliminate defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 4-6 6-3 in the third round on Friday in Melbourne.

Five-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who won her last major at the 2014 French Open, hit 37 winners against 10 from her opponent and converted her second matchpoint to set up a fourth round clash against Australia number one Ashleigh Barty.

Sharapova, who won the Australian Open in 2008, headed into the match with a 6-4 lead in their previous meetings and went for her shots from the first point making it difficult for the third-ranked Dane with a game built on defence.

"I thought the level was quite high. She is the defending champion of this event and it's no secret she loves this arena," Sharapova said in a courtside interview.

"These are the types of matches I train for so it's really rewarding to win that last point. I'm definitely not walking around thinking I have experience and think they're just going to give it to me."

Wozniacki had the first break but handed the advantage back with a double fault before the Russian 30th seed, who was suspended for 15 months for taking banned drug meldonium in 2016, won three consecutive games to take the set.

After a trade of breaks, Wozniacki took the match into a deciding set after a double fault from Sharapova gave her a set point which she converted to level the entertaining encounter on Rod Laver Arena at 1-1.

Sharapova screamed in delight after converting her third breakpoint in the seventh game with a scorching forehand and broke Wozniacki again to seal the victory in two hours and 24 minutes.

Sharapova will brace for a hostile crowd in the fourth round when she takes on local hope Barty, who beat Greek Maria Sakkari 7-5 6-1.

"I think her story is phenomenal, she loves playing here," Sharapova said of her next opponent. "I know it's going to be a tough crowd but I go out here to perform and play tennis."

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer in action during the match against Taylor Fritz of the US in Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia on January 18, 2019.(Reuters)

Ageless Federer cruises through

Roger Federer has played at the Australian Open a hundred times and has six Melbourne crowns in his collection of 20 Grand Slam titles.

The 37-year-old tennis statesman has developed a loyal following over 20 consecutive visits to Melbourne Parks for the season-opening major.

After beating 21-year-old American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 on Friday in his 100th match at the Australian Open, and reaching the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the 63rd time, he raised his racket to the crowd. 

It was not unlike what a batter scoring a century would do to acknowledge 100 at the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground.

He'll next play 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, who draws a big, vocal crowd to Melbourne Park.

"I think I wanted to get out of the blocks quickly. I knew of the threat of Taylor," Federer said. "I think I had extra focus today."

Tsitsipas had a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili earlier on Margaret Court Arena to become the first Greek man to reach the fourth round at multiple majors. He reached the same round at Wimbledon last year.

Big sections of Greeks sang songs and waved the blue and white flag and scarves in the crowd. Melbourne is the second biggest Greek city in the world after Athens, and any visitor from the 'home' country always gets a warm welcome.

"I'm delighted," he said. "I feel so comfortable. I feel like playing at home.

"It's exciting to have such an atmosphere. I never get to play with so many Greek people supporting me ... and, and, and, Australians!"

Australia's Ashleigh Barty (L) shakes hands with Greece's Maria Sakkari after winning her third-round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne 7-5, 6-1 on January 18, 2019.(Reuters)

'Barty Party' parties on

While rain prevented early play on outside courts at Melbourne Park for the first 2 ½ hours of Day 5, matches went ahead on the show courts.

The Greek contingent was also big at the Rod Laver court where loyalties were split between local favourite Ash Barty and visiting Maria Sakkari in a third-round showdown.

Barty continued the so-called 'Barty Party' by ending Sakkari's run 7-5, 6-1. She faces Sharapova next.

With Tsitsipas through, Sakkari's loss did not diminish the visitors' success, the first time a Greek man and woman have advanced to the third round at the same Grand Slam tournament since 1936.

In the only other completed match by early afternoon, 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych beat No. 18-seeded Diego Schwartzman 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Berdych, who has reached the quarterfinals or better in seven of his previous eight trips to Melbourne Park, will meet either 2009 champion Rafael Nadal or local favourite Alex de Minaur in the next round.