MELBOURNE (Reuters) -In-form world number six Paula Badosa had to fend off a comeback from Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk in an arm-wrestle of a baseline battle to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time on Friday.
Badosa had to fight right until the very last point but finally secured the 6-2 5-7 6-4 victory on her fifth match point after two hours and 19 minutes in the Melbourne sunshine, extending her winning streak to eight matches.
“Marta’s an insane player and I think she was playing top five level today,” the Spanish eighth seed said of her 19-year-old friend.
“She’ll soon for sure be one of the best players in the world. I gave it all today, I had to because she was playing so good.”
Badosa looked to be cruising at a set and a break up on Margaret Court Arena when her talented opponent found her range and clawed her way back into the contest.
The pair, wearing identical outfits, traded ferocious stroke for ferocious stroke from the back of the court and some of Kostyuk’s shots, particularly her crunching backhands, belied her ranking of 66th in the world.
The Ukrainian’s accuracy betrayed her at crunch moments, however, and she managed to convert only five of 15 break points over the contest.
Badosa also had her moments on key points and will want to quickly forget her fluffed attempt at a simple volley at the net on her second match point which ended up flying well wide of the tramlines.
The 24-year-old had cruised through the first two rounds at Melbourne Park for the loss of only seven games, riding the momentum from a tournament win at the Sydney Tennis Classic last weekend.
She will next face the powerful American Madison Keys or China’s Wang Qiang for a place in her second Grand Slam quarter-final.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Christian Schmollinger)