Melbourne: World No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka’s winning start to the year continued on Thursday, as she defeated dangerous floater Shelby Rogers to reach the third round of the 2023 Australian Open.
Sabalenka registered a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Rogers to reach the third round in Melbourne for the third straight year at Rod Laver Arena. She hit 32 winners, nearly doubling Rogers’ 17 in the match that lasted for 1 hour and 27 minutes.
The 24-year-old has started this year 6-0, having won the Adelaide International 1 title earlier this month. It is the second time in the last three years that Sabalenka has won her first six matches of the season, having also done so in 2021.
Sabalenka had saved nearly 80 per cent of break points she had faced during her hot start to the year, but Rogers was still able to draw first blood, taking a 3-1 lead in an opening set filled with lengthy games. But, Sabalenka charged back from a breakdown and reeled off five games in a row to snatch the one-set lead.
In the second set, Sabalenka slammed a backhand winner to save a break point and hold for 1-1. She was untroubled from there, cracking a backhand crosscourt winner to seal the match.
Sabalenka will face her former regular doubles partner, No.26 seed Elise Mertens, in the third round. At their peak, Sabalenka and Mertens were a formidable duo who won Grand Slam doubles titles at the 2019 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open.
Mertens of Belgium set up the meeting by defeating American Lauren Davis 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour and 12 minutes. She ended the eight-match winning streak of Davis, who won the Hobart title as a qualifier last week.
Mertens has thrived at the Australian Open, reaching the 2018 semifinals in her main-draw debut at the event. The Belgian has made the third round or better in all six of her main-draw appearances in Melbourne.
However, Sabalenka holds a 6-2 advantage in their singles rivalry. In their most recent meeting, Sabalenka beat Mertens 6-4, 6-1 in the Round of 16 at the 2021 US Open.
“It was a Great match. Always a tough opponent to play against, and I am super happy that I was able to finish this game in two sets,” WTA.com quoted Sabalenka as saying after her win.
(With IANS Inputs)