Sydney (dpa) – Japanese powerhouse Naomi Osaka is into the Australian Open fourth round after sweeping Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in straight sets and will meet 2020 finalist Garbine Murguruza after they both progressed on Friday.
In the men’s competition, German Alexander Zverev breezed through to the fourth round defeating Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, beating him for the sixth time from six encounters.
“I felt a bit lazy so I thought I’d hit the ball a little bit harder so we didn’t have to play for four hours and so you guys don’t have to sit in the sun,” Zverev joked afterwards.
Grigor Dimitrov had entry to the final 16 handed to him after Pablo Carreno Busta’s forced retirement through illness.
The 18th seed Bulgarian led 6-0, 1-0 when Carreno Busta called an end to the match.
Three-time grand slam champion and 2019 Melbourne champion Osaka won 6-3, 6-2.
“I was really nervous and scared because I didn’t know if she was going to hit a drop shot on any ball,” Osaka said, of playing her opponent for the first time.
Murguruza completely dominated Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-1 and has dropped only 10 games all tournament.
Earlier, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka became the first player through to the fourth round after downing American Ann Li in straight sets, while Marketa Vondrousova and Serena Williams also progressed.
World number seven Sabalenka took only an hour to win 6-3, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena, hitting seven aces and winning four out of 10 break points.
“I really want to play well in the grand slams and go as far as I can and sometimes staying in Melbourne Park I feel a little pressure.
“I’m trying to come out on the big stadiums and play my best,” Sabalenka said.
It’s the first time Sablenka has made it to the fourth round in Melbourne and will be hoping for a win there to make the first quarter final of a grand slam in her career.
On the same court, Serena Williams overcame a shaky start to down Russian teen Anastasia Potapova, who took an injury time-out in the second set, winning 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.
The seven-time champion had to recover from 5-3 down and save two set points in the first set to best the former Wimbledon junior champion on Friday.
“It definitely feels good to be in the fourth round and it’s so good to get through that match,” the 10th seed said.
“I felt like I came out not off to the starting blocks like I would have wanted to and like I have been since I’ve been playing here.
“But it’s about surviving and playing better every round,” Williams said.
The 39-year-old now faces Sabalenka on Sunday, continuing her chase for a record-equalling 24th grand slam.
20th-ranked Vondrousova beat Cirstea 6-2, 6-4.
The Czech player had never previously made it past the second round in Melbourne.
Vondrousova’s best performance at the majors came at the 2019 French Open, when she was beaten in the final by Australia’s Ash Barty.
On Friday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state would go into a snap five-day lockdown to control a new coronavirus outbreak of the highly contagious British variant.
The Australian Open will continue to be played but without fans in stadiums from Saturday, Andrews said.
Play in Melbourne had been taking place with the show courts filled to one-third with spectators as local authorities are allowing up to 30,000 fans to Melbourne Park each day.
It was a brief, welcome change for players amid the coronavirus pandemic after last year’s US Open took place behind closed doors and the French Open in front of very small crowds.