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Australian Open: Sabalenka beats former doubles partner Mertens, extends win streak to seven

The Belarusian will meet Swiss Belinda Bencic, the No 12 seed, in the fourth round in Melbourne

Aryna Sabalenka at the 2023 Australian Open Aryna Sabalenka at the 2023 Australian Open Image Credit: AI/Reuters/Panoramic
Australian Open •Third round • completed
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Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, the No 5 seed, defeated her former doubles partner, Belgian Elise Mertens, in straight sets to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

Ranked No 5 in the world, Sabalenka needed one hour and 14 minutes to beat the 26th seeded Mertens 6-2, 6-3.

The two players had teamed up to win the 2019 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open before Sabalenka decided to focus more on singles.

Sabalenka’s win keeps her unbeaten in 2023 and extends her winning streak to seven matches. The 24-year-old had won the Adelaide 1 event earlier this month and has won 14 sets in a row this year.

She admitted that she has had to change her on-court demeanour and is enjoying the benefits, smiling: “It feels like I wish I would be like that few years ago, you know. Finally I understand what everyone was looking for and asking for.

“Yeah, as I said, I need to be a little bit boring on court. I mean, it’s still about a lot of positive emotions for me, but I’m trying to stay away from negative and just fight for every point.”

But she tried to avoid the label of “favourite”.

“About the favourite, that I am on that favourite list, I don’t know. I mean, as I always say, you never know. I mean, it’s really good that I’m there, but I better focus on myself, on my game, make sure that my dream will happen, you know.”

Sabalenka to meet Bencic for a place in the quarters

Sabalenka will next meet Swiss Belinda Bencic, the No 12 seed, for a place in the quarter-finals. The pair have split their two career meetings so far, the last of which came in 2019.

Bencic is also on a seven-match winning streak, having won the Adelaide 2 title last week.

The Belarusian is now through to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the third year running. Earlier in the tournament, she had defeated Czech Tereza Martincova (6-1, 6-4) and American Shelby Rogers (6-3, 6-1) and is yet to drop a set this fortnight.

Mertens, ranked No 32, had scored wins over Spaniard Garbine Muguruza (3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1) and American Lauren Davis (6-4, 6-3) in the previous rounds.

Australian Open (Grand Slam), other third-round results (Melbourne Park, hard, USD 24,297,942, most recent results first):

  • Magda Linette vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova
  • Laura Siegemund vs. Caroline Garcia
  • Linda Fruhvirtova vs. Marketa Vondrousova
  • Shuai Zhang (23) beat Katie Volynets (Q): 6-3, 6-2
  • Belinda Bencic beat Camila Giorgi: 6-2, 7-5
  • Donna Vekic beat Nuria Parrizas Diaz: 6-2, 6-2
  • Karolina Pliskova (30) beat Varvara Gracheva: 6-4, 6-2
  • Lin Zhu beat Maria Sakkari (6): 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-4
  • Victoria Azarenka (24) beat Madison Keys (10): 1-6, 6-2, 6-1
  • Iga Swiatek (1) beat Cristina Bucsa (Q): 6-0, 6-1
  • Jelena Ostapenko (17) beat Kateryna Baindl: 6-3, 6-0
  • Coco Gauff (7) beat Bernarda Pera: 6-3, 6-2
  • Jessica Pegula (3) beat Marta Kostyuk: 6-0, 6-2
  • Elena Rybakina (22) beat Danielle Collins (13): 6-2, 5-7, 6-2
  • Barbora Krejcikova (20) beat Anhelina Kalinina: 6-2, 6-3
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