01/24 23:55 CST Halep, Kerber avoid 3rd-round chaos at Australian Open
Halep, Kerber avoid 3rd-round chaos at Australian Open
By JOHN PYE
AP Sports Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) --- Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber have held Grand
Slam trophies aloft, and so have learned to keep their heads down when clusters
of highly-ranked players start losing in the first week of majors.
Wimbledon champion Halep and Kerber, who won her breakthrough major in
Australia in 2016 and has added two Grand Slam titles since, navigated a
chaotic third round at the Australian Open to reach the second week.
Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, a semifinalist here last year, and No. 6
Belinda Bencic, a semifinalist at last year's U.S. Open, had straight-sets
losses on Saturday, the day after 23-time major winner Serena Williams and
defending champion Naomi Osaka exited in third-round upsets.
"Not at all. I'm not focusing on other players --- just focusing on myself,"
Halep said after her 6-1, 6-4 win over Yulia Putintseva on Rod Laver Arena, the
match after Pliskova lost to 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) to 30th-seeded Anastasia
Pavlyuchenkova. "It doesn't matter who is winning, who is losing, I just have
to do my job when I step onto court."
Kerber had 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi. In a later news
conference, she almost laughed when asked if nervousness was contagious in the
locker room when the top players start exiting.
"Every match starts from zero --- doesn't matter who against you play," she
said. "You have sometimes a little bit bad days, good days. So it's more about
caring yourself, working on your strengths and going for it. So it's nothing
about looking around."
The left-handed Kerber next faces Pavlyuchenkova, who was a junior champion
here 12 years ago when she beat Caroline Wozniacki in the final. They're
playing for a spot in the quarterfinals, a stage Pavlyuchekova has reached five
times but never surpassed at the majors.
She said she hasn't been patient enough in the past, but is putting more value
on each match now. She'd only ever taken one set off Pliskova in six previous
losses, but decided to target one of the best serves in the women's game on Rod
Laver --- and it worked.
Having a bunch of top players missing from the second week doesn't come into
her thinking, either.
"I don't focus so much on names any more. I've been on the tour for a while,"
she said, when asked about the absence of Williams, Osaka and so on. "Those are
really big names and great players, but it's tennis. Nowadays, as you can see,
surprises happen. I just try not to lose myself and be in the present, do what
I have. I have the next match to play Angelique --- why should I care about all
the other names?"
Williams, who has won seven Australian titles among her 23 majors, 2018
champion Wozniacki and defending champion Osaka all lost on Friday. Wozniacki
went immediately into retirement but Williams vowed to continue her pursuit of
Margaret Court's all-time record 24 majors after her loss to Wang Qiang, a
player she'd beaten in 44 minutes at last year's U.S. Open. Osaka, who won
back-to-back majors at the 2018 U.S. Open and last year here in Australia, lost
to 15-year-old Coco Gauff.
Bencic, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open last September, was rolled 6-0, 6-1 in
49 minutes by 28th-seeded Anett Kontaveit, who will next play Iga Swiatek, the
No. 59-ranked player from Poland who took out 19th-seeded Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-3.
A day after upsetting Osaka, Gauff combined with Caty McNally for a win in the
second round of women's doubles. The American teenagers beat eighth-seeded pair
Kveta Peschke and Demi Schuurs 6-3, 6-4.
Men' No. 1 Rafael Nadal was playing No. 27 Pablo Carreno Busta in the afternoon
match on the main court at Melbourne Park.
10th-seeded Gael Monfils is already into the fourth round, advancing 7-6 (2),
6-4, 6-3 over No. 256-ranked Ernests Gulbis.
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