By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Maria Sharapova  def. Caroline Wozniacki  6-4 4-6 6-3
- Sets up a clash with Aussie Ashleigh Barty
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was downed in the third round by former champion Maria Sharapova in a three-set battle.
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Maria Sharapova  def. Caroline Wozniacki  6-4 4-6 6-3
While on the one hand we saw the future of the WTA tour going head to head earlier in the day, we also saw two of the most established stars of the ‘old-guard’ turn back the clock and deliver a three-set thriller to clinch a fourth-round berth.
Maria Sharapova, who has struggled with injuries since returning from a drugs suspension, even had a stuttering start to the season, retiring in Shenzhen in the opening tournament of the season, and then withdrawing from Sydney.
She blew British qualifier Harriet Dart off the court without losing a game, and gave up three games in total against Rebecca Peterson, so this was a sterner test all around. Despite putting Wozniacki under pressure to save three break points in the opening game, it was the Dane who took the initiative and quickly build up a 4-1 lead.
The tide turned the Russian’s way, and how. Sharapova reeled off five games on the spin to win the first set before Wozniacki was able to stop the rot in the opener of the second set. An early break for Wozniacki was cancelled out midway through the set, before the Dane broke to level the match.
For most of the decider there was very little to separate them, but it was Sharapova’s aggressive pressure that caused Wozniacki to crumble at the end of the set with two successive breaks to send Sharapova into the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2016 – the last time she played here.
She said, after the match: “It was definitely a match that I looked forward to and when the draw came out obviously I had to get there first and so did she. But I thought it was, as usual, as expected, a physical match.
“Didn’t have to be in some ways, but I felt like even in the longer rallies I did a great job of winning those. Put a lot of pressure on her. You know, those are the rallies that I think many years ago that she used to win. I thought I did a great job of getting a higher percentage of wins in those.”
Wozniacki admitted that she came up short, especially in those long rallies where her defensive and attacking capabilities usually put her in the driving seat.
Wozniacki said: “I think there was a period in kind of end of the first set and kind of beginning of the second where I kind of lost my rhythm a little bit. I feel like, you know, because she was either making a winner or making a mistake, and then I was waiting, and then I felt like I just lost my rhythm a little bit.
“But then I thought from the middle of kind of the second set, I feel like we both picked it up. And I think the third set we both played well. You know, it was just a grind out there. Yeah, what can I say? I just came up short, and it is what it is, I guess.”
Sharapova will face Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round, on Sunday.
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