Photo: Paul ZimmerAgnieszka Radwanska (POL)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: World No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska continued her blistering form of 2013 by securing her 12th straight win of the season to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open. The 63 61 victory came at the expense of Britain’s Heather Watson – who had showed great maturity in her enthralling win over Kazakhstan’s Ksenia Pervak in the previous round – and means that Radwanska still hasn’t dropped a set so far this year.
Asked about her winning formula in her post-match press conference, the Auckland and Sydney champion nonchalantly replied: “I was practising hard in the off-season, a lot of fitness, but just feeling good on court. I'm very confident from the beginning and just happy that I can play really my best tennis from the beginning of the year.”
Her peers world No. 2 Maria Sharapova (RUS), No. 5 Angelique Kerber (GER) and No. 6 Li Na (CHN) also join her in the fourth round and are all yet to drop a set at the 2013 Australian Open. Sharapova conceded games for the first time this tournament to 25th seed Venus Williams, coming through 61 63 which amusingly was the toughest match for her so far after two 60 60 wins in the first two rounds. Kerber celebrated her 25th birthday by defeating American wildcard Madison Keys 62 75, and Li Na comfortably beat 27th seed Sorana Cirstea 64 61.
To complete the fourth round line-up, Russian 19th seed Ekaterina Makarova toughened up for a 67 63 64 win over No. 11 Marion Bartoli, No. 18 Julia Goerges equalled her career-best Grand Slam performance in her win over Zheng Jie, No. 13 Ana Ivanovic beat Fed Cup teammate Jelena Jankovic in straight sets, and the only unseeded player left in the bottom half of the draw – Kirsten Flipkens – reached the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time. She has everything to play for when she faces Sharapova next up.
South Africa’s Kevin Anderson was the only one to dent the pattern in the top half of the men’s draw, as all of the other seven fourth-rounders dutifully beat lower-ranked opponents to advance.
An emotional Anderson had one of the highlights of his career as he battled five sets to beat No. 22 seed Fernando Verdasco and become the first South African man in 10 years to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
“I had fallen short in the third round four times I think,” said Anderson. “I just tried to focus on what I was doing out there in terms of the game I was trying to play. It really meant a lot to me, getting through that match, especially a five-set match.
"It was one of the most important matches of my life and hopefully I'll be able to reproduce more of those in the future."
Anderson will face world No. 5 Tomas Berdych in the fourth round, who dispatched Jurgen Melzer 63 62 62. Joining him in the Australian Open fourth round for the first time will also be world No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic. The Serb had to endure a second straight five-set match to beat No. 32 Julien Benneteau and needed five match points to secure the 36 64 26 64 63 victory. Next up will be No. 10 Nicolas Almagro who beat 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic moved comfortably into the fourth round after a straight sets win over recent Davis Cup champion Radek Stepanek and will next face No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka who ended American hopes in the men’s draw by defeating Sam Querrey.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori will be looking to equal his best Grand Slam result and reach the quarterfinals again at the Australian Open but must first defeat world No. 4 David Ferrer.