MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka swept into the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Ons Jabeur in front of one of the last crowds allowed before Melbourne Park goes into lockdown.
The Japanese third seed pounded down eight aces as she dominated her first career contest against the Tunisian world number 30 to set up a meeting with Spain’s twice Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza.
“Thanks for coming out, it’s so great to play in front you,” Osaka said to the crowd on John Cain Arena before asking for, and receiving, a rendition of the local sporting chant “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!”.
Such interactions will be impossible for five days from midnight on Friday after the state government announced a strict lockdown to try and contain an outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne.
U.S. Open champion Osaka said she had been wary of Jabeur’s drop shot but dealt comfortably enough with her opponent to extend her winning streak to 17 matches.
Osaka, who won her second Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2019, was forced to pause in the second set when a butterfly fluttered into her face and she moved it to the side of the court with her racket.
She saved six of seven break points she faced and hit winners off both wings, serving out to love to reach the last 16 at Melbourne Park for the third time after 78 minutes.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Richard Pullin)