Melbourne: Former champion Angelique Kerber celebrated her 30th birthday with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Donna Vekic to advance to the third round of the Australian Open and a match against Maria Sharapova.
It was Kerber's 11th win in a row to start the season.
Kerber, the 2016 champion at Melbourne Park, won four singles matches at the Hopman Cup and five more while winning last week's Sydney International. She beat fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam in the first round here.
The crowd sang Happy Birthday and gave three hoorays to celebrate Kerber's 30th birthday. It was her 11th win, including the Sydney International title last week.
"Happy to be playing tennis again like 2016," said Kerber, who planned an ice bath before a relaxed dinner out in Melbourne to mark the occasion.
In the men's singles, Dominic Thiem survived his first career five-set match at the Australian Open, rallying from two sets down to defeat 190th-ranked American qualifier Denis Kudla 6-7(6), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round.
The fifth-seeded Austrian player improved his five-set record at Grand Slams to 3-3 with the win. He lost both five-setters he played last year at the majors to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon and to Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open.
Thiem counted 21 aces among his 57 winners in the match. He was broken three times in the opening set and once in the second set, then didn't face another break point for the rest of the match.
Upsets continue as temperatures soar
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza struggled with the heat and against Hsieh Su-wei's game, losing 7-6(1), 6-4 on Day 4 as the upsets intensified at Melbourne Park.
No 3-ranked Muguruza was the highest-ranked player to fall so far, but follows Venus Williams and US Open champion Sloane Stephens out of the tournament in the first week.
Muguruza had five double-faults, including one to give Hsieh a match point, and made 43 unforced errors. She needed a medical time out in the first set, and accidently hit a ball into a line judge in frustration.
Considered one of the contenders for the title after Serena Williams opted against defending her Australian title, Muguruza had a troubled preparation. She retired with cramps in the second round at the Brisbane International and withdrew before her quarter-final at Sydney because of a right thigh injury.
With a forecast high of 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), Maria Sharapova appeared to be in a hurry to get off the Rod Laver Arena court in the earlier match, winning the first set in 23 minutes.
The five-time major winner advanced to the third round with a 6-1, 7-6(4) win over No 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova.
"It's a warm day. I did my job in two sets against someone that's been troubling in the past for me," said Sharapova, who missed last year's tournament while serving a 15-month doping ban. "So third round of the Australian Open, I don't know, I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory."
Ninth-seeded Johanna Konta was more exposed to the heat on an outside court, and lost to US lucky loser Bernarda Pera 6-4, 7-5.
No 123-ranked Pera is making her Grand Slam debut and, after losing in the last round of qualifying, didn't even know she had a spot in the main draw until Monday when Russia's Margarita Gasparyan withdrew with an injury.
Konta saved three match points in the ninth game of the second set, then broke Pera to level at 5-all.
But Pera clinched it on her fifth match point when Konta, a semi-finalist here in 2016, shanked an overhead at the net.
"It feels amazing. I was ready to leave on Monday and then they told me I'm in, so I was obviously excited. I was checking the tickets to fly back. I'm happy I didn't buy one."
Pera will next play No 20 Barbora Strycova, who beat Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 6-4.
Also advancing were No 8 Caroline Garcia, who beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-7(3), 6-2, 8-6, and No 26 Agnieszka Radwanska, who next plays Hsieh.
Lauren Davis beat Andrea Petkovic 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 and has a potential third-round match against top-ranked Simon Halep, who was playing Eugenie Bouchard later Thursday.
Former No 1-ranked Karolina Pliskova dropped only a game in each set of a win over Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Sam Querrey was the latest of the leading US men eliminated when he lost his second-round match 6-4, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-2 to 80th-ranked Marton Fucsovics. No 8 Jack Sock and No 16 John Isner went out in the first round.
The 13th-seeded Querrey was one of 10 American players — men and women — to reach the second round from the 32 who started the main draws.
No 21 Albert Ramos beat another American, wildcard entry Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(2).
Published Date: Jan 18, 2018 11:57 AM | Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 11:57 AM