Sabalenka too good for Vondrousova but Inglis run ended by Kanepi | Australian Open 2022

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Aryna Sabalenka threw her hands into the air, clapped them together and then punched the sky. “I’m really happy right now,” she said, “and mostly really happy that I made only 10 double-faults.”

She was laughing, the crowd was laughing and cheering. Marketa Vondrousova was probably doing neither, having lost the third-round showdown despite starting the stronger. The No 31 seed had taken the opening set, just as Sabalenka’s previous two Australian Open opponents had done. In much the same manner as those matches, the world No 2 had closed out the contest with ease.

“It feels like I’m warming up in the first set and then I start playing,” she said. “I really want to win it in two sets and that’s why I’m getting so much emotional on the first set, and that’s why I’m over-trying and I’m missing a lot.

“And after the first set when you’re losing, you’re: ‘OK, maybe I don’t have to overhit or panic like [I did] earlier.”

At Margaret Court Arena on Saturday she finished almost flawlessly, which will not be lost on the Estonian Kaia Kanepi, who will face her in the last 16 after beating theAustralian wildcard Maddison Inglis.

Vondrousova broke Sabalenka twice in the opening set. Sabalenka, though, started landing the big first serves for which she is also known. Vondrousova found herself on the back foot, forced to take more risks than desired and finding not enough were paying off.

These past few months Sabalenka has relied on other areas of her generally imposing game to compensate for her well-documented serving troubles, which peaked in round two when she served 19 double-faults against Wang Xinyu, including six in her opening service game. Her 10 against Vondrousova bring her tournament tally to 41.

She spent much off the off-season working on this issue and accepted help from Mark Philippoussis this month after totalling 38 double-faults in her opening two losses of the season in Adelaide.

“It’s more mental,” she said. “Because I put a lot of pressure on myself about my serve and the last matches I was trying to control everything on my serve; my legs, my arm, the ball toss. I was overthinking, so I just stopped thinking.

“Like today, for example, I was focusing only on the good jump and that’s it. Because I have this muscle memory, and I just trust myself today, much more than in the first matches.”

That trust will be put to the test against Kanepi, who relied on her own resilience to go the distance against Inglis. The Western Australian, who has never progressed past the first round of a grand slam, appeared to be on her way to a stunning upset when she stole the first set in emphatic fashion. But it was short-lived, and her failure to hold serve for seven straight service games gave Kanepi the ascendancy to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Kaia Kanepi celebrates her win over Maddison Inglis. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

“This week, I really proved to myself and to the people around me that I do have it in me,” Inglis said. “And belief does a lot for your game and how you play.”

It followed the day’s trend of comebacks in the women’s singles, with American Danielle Collins prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 after also losing the first set to emerging Danish star Clara Tauson, and the French veteran Alizé Cornet seeing off Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 – but not without a tense exchange with the umpire.

Cornet, who in round two upset the world No 3, Garbiñe Muguruza, was down a set with the second delicately poised at 4-4 when the umpire took away her first serve for a time violation when she appeared to be checking the sun’s position. “This is insane, I didn’t do anything,” she told the umpire, Katarzyna Radwan-Cho. “I took my towel, I took the ball and I went. I didn’t even wait for one second.”

After some back and forth Cornet walked away and then returned, starting with: “Don’t say anything, just listen to me.” Cornet later said she “had to tell her what I had on my heart”.

“We’ve been fighting on the court for two hours in the heat, playing such a long game, be a little bit understanding,” she said. “You’re in the shade, you’re seated. I was a little bit, maybe not really nice, but I told her sometimes you have to be a little bit human with the players.”

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Simona Halep made light work of Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-2, 6-1 and the Romanian will meet Cornet in the fourth round – the seventh time she has made it to the second week in Melbourne.

The Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek set up a fourth-round date with Romanian Sorana Cirstea after a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 win over Daria Kasatkina. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went out, the 10th seed falling to Cirstea 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. Elise Mertens knocked out Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-2 and will face Collins.

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