Rublev, Sabalenka advance to Australian Open’s 4th round

Sports

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the third time in four years with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win over Dan Evans on Saturday.

Rublev hit 60 winners, including 10 aces.

“Every match I’m playing better and better,” Rublev said. “At the beginning of the year I lost a couple of close matches against really good players and lost a bit of confidence.”

Rublev, who will play ninth-seeded Holger Rune in the last 16, also thanked Evans for helping him by giving him a banana late in the first set.

“I asked for a banana and they didn’t have any,” Rublev said. “Dan had asked for bananas earlier and had two and he just gave me one. He helped me with the energy.”

Danish teenager Rune beat Ugo Humbert 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (5) to move into the fourth round on just his second visit to Melbourne Park.

Rune had a nasty-looking fall on the second point of the second set when his right ankle slipped. He had his right wrist checked but seemed unaffected as he claimed a convincing victory.

Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka extended her streak to seven matches as she beat Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3 to reach the fourth round. The Belarusian player hit 32 winners to beat Mertens, with whom she won the doubles title in Melbourne in 2021.

“It’s really tough to play against her, she’s a great player and is always fighting,” Sabalenka said.

Sabalenka will now play Belinda Bencic after the Swiss player reached the fourth round for the first time since 2016, beating Camila Giorgi 6-2, 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena.

The 12th-seeded Bencic was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 but she broke serve in the following game and then served out to love for victory.

“I’m really happy I got a second chance to serve it out,” she said. “But overall I think it was a great match. (At 6-5) I just tried to relax. My coach (Dmitri Tursunov) was showing me relax (signals).”

Bencic won the warm-up event in Adelaide before the Australian Open and has won eight matches in a row.

Former top-ranked Karolina Pliskova also reached the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Varvara Gracheva. Pliskova, who last made the second week in Melbourne in 2019, did not face a break point.

“My serve, it can be a really good weapon,” she said. “I’m not doing as much running from the baseline.”

Pliskova next plays Zhang Shuai, who ended the run of American qualifier Katie Volynets 6-3, 6-2. Donna Vekic advanced to the fourth round for the second time in three years with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain.

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