Kerber slams Sharapova; Halep advances after marathon match

Bill Scott, DPA on

Published in Tennis

MELBOURNE -- Angelique Kerber won a battle of former Australian Open champions as she routed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third round on Saturday at the event she won in 2016.

Kerber is fighting back from a miserable 2017 in which she lost the top ranking, as she raised her 2018 season record to 12-0.

Top seed Simona Halep meanwhile struggled for almost three and three-quarter hours to win the co-longest women's match in tournament history over American Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-4, 15-13.

The battle lasted 48 games, which ties with the record set at the event more than two decades ago.

Kerber, meanwhile, raced through the first set and decided the match with a break for 5-3, serving out the match in the next game.

"I have so many great memories form this court," the 30-year-old German said. "It's so special for me. I knew the match would be tough, she's a champion and has been playing well.

"I'm just glad we have 2018 instead of 2017 right now. I learned a lot in the past 24 months, especially since last year was so tough for me.

"But I never give up, I'm always coming back."

Halep, who has yet to win her first Grand Slam title, claimed a hard-fought victory as she served for the match for a fourth time against an opponent who twice was treated in the final set as toenails fell off from each of her feet.

The last set lasted for an amazing two hours, 20 minutes, with Halep saving three match points in the 22nd game to hold for 11-11.

Halep finally escaped with the win as Davis returned long to set up a pair of match points, with the Romanian seed advancing when her opponent fired wide down the line.

"It was a very tough match, so long," Halep said. "I'm just happy I could stay on the court and win it -- I'm almost dead.

"For sure I'm stronger mentally now, and I could resist for every moment in the match. That makes me very happy, and I think the big win is that I could handle it."

Davis said: "I have never played a match like that where it went so long in the third set. We were both fighting our hearts out, and, I mean, every point was just super long."


Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova put out compatriot Lucie Safarova 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 and French eighth seed Caroline Garcia beat Alexandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys, playing only her fifth match since the New York final she lost to Sloane Stephens, defeated Kazakh Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-4.

In the men's draw, Alexander Zverev became the highest men's seed to exit as the No. 4 was toppled 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 by South Korea's Chung Hyeon.

The 21-year-old Chung swept the final set as the frustrated Zverev, 20, trashed a racquet at a low point of the duel between the youngest players left in the draw. It was Chung's first win over a top-10 player.

"I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in grand slams," Zverev said after another early exit. "It happened at Wimbledon. It happened in New York. It happened here."

Chung, who also beat the other Zverev brother, Mischa, earlier in the tournament, said: "It was a very tough match, he's a good player. We know how to play each other, I was just trying to give my 100 per cent on court.

Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem crushed Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to run his record to 7-0 over the Frenchman, reaching the second week in just over two hours with 42 winners and nine aces.

Tomas Berdych upset 12th seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second week for the ninth time in 11 years.

Fabio Fognini beat Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to join compatriot Andreas Seppi in the last 16, the first time for Italy to place two men this far in a grand slam since 1976 Roland Garros.

American Tennys Sandgren, who defeated 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka in the second round, continued to make progress, putting out German Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5). Hungary's Marton Fucsovics accounted for Argentine Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

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