MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Top seed Ash Barty recovered from an early wobble to defeat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-4 in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday, while Alex De Minaur fell to Fabio Fognini in a mixded day for the host country.
Barty, looking to become the first homegrown Australian Open singles champion since 1978, showed no signs of being hampered by her strapped left thigh although she admitted that playing in an empty stadium due to Melbourne’s five-day lockdown felt strange.
Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini ended the host nation’s challenge in the men’s singles draw with a clinical 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory over 21st seed De Minaur.
Fognini will next face second seed Rafa Nadal, who battled past Britain’s Cameron Norrie 7-5 6-2 7-5 to keep alive his hopes of a record 21st Grand Slam.
The 34-year-old Spaniard was heckled by a loud-mouthed fan in the previous round but enjoyed an incident-free evening to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 49th time in his career.
Daniil Medvedev extended his winning streak to 17 matches after outlasting Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 in his first five-set victory.
Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova received a code violation for racket abuse and was handed a point deduction for smashing another racket as she crumbled to a 7-5 7-5 defeat by Czech compatriot Karolina Muchova.
Stefanos Tsitsipas barely broke sweat as he swept past Swede Mikael Ymer 6-4 6-1 6-1 to book a date with Italian Matteo Berrettini, who downed Russian Karen Khachanov in three tie-break sets.
Quotes from day six
Highlights of day six of the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park on Saturday. Times local (GMT +11):
2315 NADAL MARCHES ON
Second seed Rafa Nadal kept his hopes of a record 21st Grand Slam alive with a 7-5 6-2 7-5 victory over Briton Cameron Norrie.
Nadal had been suffering from a back injury prior to the tournament but has not yet dropped a set and will face Fabio Fognini in the fourth round.
2308 FOGNINI DASHES DE MINAUR HOPES
Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini staved off a late comeback from Alex De Minaur, seeded 21, to register a 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory.
De Minaur, the last remaining Australian in the men’s singles draw, saved two match points before bowing out in just over two hours.
2045 BARTY OUSTS ALEXANDROVA
World number one Ash Barty secured a 6-2 6-4 victory over Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova despite playing with a heavily strapped thigh.
Barty will play unseeded American Shelby Rogers who advanced to the fourth round for the first time in her career after beating Anett Kontaveit 6-4 6-3.
1815 MERTENS MARCHES PAST BENCIC
Belgium’s Elise Mertens, who reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park three years ago, fired 22 winners in a 6-2 6-1 win over Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic.
1800 RUBLEV RACES INTO FOURTH ROUND
Russia’s seventh seed Andrey Rublev extended his winning streak to seven matches in 2021 with a 7-5 6-2 6-3 win over Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez.
1700 TSITSIPAS ADVANCES WITH EASY WIN
Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas needed just over 1-1/2 hours to see off Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-4 6-1 6-1.
1635 MEDVEDEV SURVIVES KRAJINOVIC SCARE
Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev came through in five sets for the first time in his career, defeating Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 in just over three hours at Rod Laver Arena.
1535 VEKIC BATTLES PAST KANEPI
Croatia’s 28th seed Donna Vekic saved a match point as she rallied from a set down to beat Estonian Kaia Kanepi 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4.
1520 BRADY ROLLS INTO LAST 16
American Jennifer Brady, seeded 22nd, held off a spirited challenge from Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan in the second set before claiming a 6-1 6-3 victory.
1330 PEGULA POWERS INTO FOURTH ROUND
American Jessica Pegula reached the fourth round in a Grand Slam for the first time in her career with a 6-2 6-1 victory over France’s Kristina Mladenovic.
1315 PLISKOVA KNOCKED OUT
Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova’s frustration boiled over as she smashed two rackets during a 7-5 7-5 defeat by fellow Czech Karolina Muchova.
Pliskova was also docked a point for racket abuse in the tunnel between the two sets.
1232 FIFTH SEED SVITOLINA INTO FOURTH ROUND
Fifth seed Elina Svitolina survived an early wobble to cruise into the fourth round with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Kazakh Yulia Putintseva on Margaret Court Arena.
1112 PLAY UNDERWAY AT EMPTY STADIUMS
Play got underway as scheduled under cloudy skies on six courts on the first Saturday of the championships, normally one of the best attended of the fortnight.
No fans will be allowed for the next five days after the Victoria government ordered a snap lockdown to try and contain an outbreak of the COVID-19 variant associated with Britain.
The state of Victoria announced one new locally-transmitted case of COVID-19 on Saturday.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Hardik Vyas, Rohith Nair and Arvind Sriram; Editing by Michael Perry and Hugh Lawson)