Ashleigh Barty is into the fourth round of the Australian Open
Ashleigh Barty is into the fourth round of the Australian Open Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Ash Barty has taken another step toward winning her home major. The top-seeded Australian beat Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 6-2, 6-4 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the third straight year.

Barty rallied from 4-2 down in the second set and broke Alexandrova's serve to make it 4-4 on her sixth break point. She then won 10 of the last 15 points to close out the match.

The 29th-seeded Alexandrova had beaten former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek in a warm-up tournament last week.

Barty said she'd never played at tour-level without a crowd before Saturday's match in Margaret Court Arenaand liked the sound of striking the ball in the empty stadium. She added: "It feels a little bit like practice, so we're pretty used to it." Barty next faces American Shelby Rogers for a chance to reach the quarter-finals.  ​​

Rublev eases past Lopez

​​​​​​Andrey Rublev stayed on course for quarterfinal match against ATP Cup-winning teammate Daniil Medvedev with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 third-round win over 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez.

Rublev and Medevedev both went unbeaten in the 12-team ATP Cup last week to clinch the title for Russia. The seventh-seeded Rublev will meet Casper Ruud of Norway in the fourth round.

No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 in the third round. It was a much more straight-forward outing than his five-set marathon against Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round. ​​​​​​

Belgium's Elise Mertens defeated Switzerland's Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open
Belgium's Elise Mertens defeated Switzerland's Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open Image Credit: AFP

Mertens dumps Bencic

Elise Mertens continued her winning start to 2021 with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over 11th-seeded Belinda Bencic to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

The No. 18-seeded Mertens won a tune-up tournament at Melbourne Park in the week between players coming out of mandatory quarantine in Australia and when the year’s first major tournament started. The 2018 Australian Open semi-finalist will take a seven-match winning streak into her fourth-rounder against No. 25 Karolina Muchova.

Medvedev pushes on

Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev achieved a career first as he advanced to the fourth round, finally winning a match that went to five sets. Medvedev was 0-6 in five-setters before his drought-breaking 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0 win over No. 28-seeded Filip Krajinovic, who had a 4-1 record previously in Grand Slam matches that went the full five sets.

The win stretched Medvedev’s winning streak to 17 matches, a stretch that includes the title at the 2020 season-ending ATP Finals. Medvedev, the US Open finalist last year, will next play Mackenzie McDonald, the unseeded American who beat Lloyd Harris in straight sets to equal his best Grand Slam result by reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

New best for Pegula

Unseeded American Jessica Pegula has advanced to the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time by beating Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-1. Pegula, who is ranked 61st, lost the first six points but then began to dominate with her versatile game. She hit 21 winners to just 13 unforced errors and won eight points at the net.

The previous best showing at a Grand Slam by the 26-year-old native of Buffalo, New York, was a run to the third round at last year’s US Open. Pegula will next play No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina, who beat No. 26 Yulia Putintseva, 6-4, 6-0. No. 6 Karolina Pliskova blew a 5-0 lead in the second set and lost to No. 25 Karolina Muchova 7-5, 7-5.

No. 22 Jennifer Brady of the United States beat qualifier Kaja Juvan 6-1, 6-3. Brady next takes on No. 28 Donna Vekic, who rallied to beat Kaia Kanepi 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.