Australian Open updates: Serena Williams crushes Eugenie Bouchard to join sister Venus and Simona Halep in third round
Dominic Thiem and Hyeon Chung beaten, but wins for Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina
Serena Williams continued her bid for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title at the Australian Open on Thursday by thrashing Canada's Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.
Williams, who won the title on her last visit to Melbourne in 2017, stormed to a 3-0 lead as Bouchard struggled against the American's power and precision.
World No 79 Bouchard, a former Wimbledon finalist, did fight back to break the Williams serve, but handed the break straight back. Another exchange of breaks saw the Canadian pull herself to 2-4, but Williams ensured her opponent failed to hold serve at all in the opening set with another break before serving out.
The start of the second set went with serve until 2-2, but that is where the Bouchard resistance ended as Williams rattled through the next four games to book her place in the third round.
Williams, a seven-time champion in Melbourne, will next take on Dayana Yastremska for a place in the fourth round after the unseeded Ukrainian defeated Spanish 23rd seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
Halep grinds past Kenin
World No 1 Simona Halep lurched into the Australian Open third round on Thursday after being pushed to the limit by unseeded Sofia Kenin over three sets.
The Romanian top seed, who also struggled in her opening match at Melbourne Park, eventually downed the American 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 after two-and-a-half hours to set up a meeting with seven-time grand slam champion Venus Williams.
Williams herself had to grind out a win in her second three-set victory of the tournament.
The unseeded 38-year-old American came back strongly to beat Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Williams, who played her first Australian Open in 1998, said she drew energy from the Melbourne Park crowd in the deciding set against world number 36 Cornet.
"The first two sets were so tough and in the second I felt I was controlling the points but just falling a little bit short," she said. "So I tried to do the same (in the third set) and not fall a little bit short. It worked out."
Thiem limps out
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem retired when 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 down to young wildcard Alexei Popyrin.
The Austrian got through a first round five-setter against Benoit Paire that finished in the early hours of Wednesday morning and he never looked 100 per cent against the Australian.
Thiem smashed his racquet at one point and called for the trainer before retiring to hand Popyrin, 19, the biggest win of his fledgling career.
"It's never easy winning like this, Dom played a tough first round. It's never easy winning like this," the teenager said.
But he added: "I always thought I was in the match, to be honest."
No Chung magic this time
Hyeon Chung will not be repeating last year's giant-killing heroics after crashing out to Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
The 24th seeded South Korean lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 to the unseeded Frenchman on Melbourne Arena.
Twelve months ago the little-known Chung, who models his game on Novak Djokovic, was the toast of the town as he tore through a tough half of the draw before hitting the buffers against Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
Chung has struggled to build on his breakout performance where he famously beat fourth seed Alexander Zverev and Djokovic en route to retiring in the second set against Federer with massive, deep blisters on both feet.
Raonic relief after win over Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, was edged out by a relieved 16th seed Milos Raonic in the tightest of second-round battles.
The 33-year-old Swiss, unseeded for the first time since his debut in 2006 after being plagued by injury, fell to the Canadian after four sets decided on tiebreaks 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6.
"That's hard to describe," Raonic said. "I feel four hours went by in about 15 minutes. The adrenalin just takes over."
Wawrinka was a break up in the fourth set but failed to serve out from 5-4 to take it to a fifth.
"I was fortunate to stay alive in the fourth set," conceded Raonic, whose best major performance was reaching the 2016 Wimbledon final where he lost to Andy Murray.
"Four tie-breaks, three went my way," the Canadian added. "Could easily have been different."
Osaka breezes through
Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka swept past Tamara Zidansek in straight sets to reach the third round as she targets a second grand slam title.
The US Open champion defeated the unseeded Slovenian 6-2, 6-4 to set up an all-Asian clash with Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan in the next round.
The 21-year-old struggled to close out the match after a strong start but always looked in control against the world No 78.
"I thought I served alright, this was my first time playing her and I'm just happy to win to be honest," Osaka said.
She anticipated a tough test against Hsieh, who she defeated in their only previous meeting.
"She's been playing really well recently so I just hope that it's exciting," she said.
Nishikori squeaks past Karlovic
Japanese star Kei Nishikori battled through a draining five-set epic to make the third round.
Asia's top-ranked men's player needed an energy-sapping 3hr 48min to get past big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 in humid conditions on Margaret Court Arena.
"It was a tough match which could have gone both ways. He almost had it for sure," said Nishikori, a three-time quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, after falling to his knees in relief.
He next plays either 32nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber or Joao Sousa.
Svitolina grows in confidence
Sixth seed Elina Svitolina said she was growing in confidence after a straight sets romp into the third round.
The Ukrainian, who scored her biggest career win by clinching the WTA Finals in Singapore last October, dismantled Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-1 in 67 minutes.
"I was trying to be light on my feet and be really quick and I think this was the key today," she said.
The 24-year-old has set her sights high this year, targeting a Grand Slam win and world number one ranking.
She said the WTA victory had demonstrated she could mix it with the game's best players.
"It definitely brought me lots of confidence and showed I can play at a really high level," she said. "So I'm just trying to transfer this to the grand slam."
All about focus for Pliskova
Seventh seed Karolina Pliskova recovered from a slow start to storm home against unseeded American Madison Brengle and grab a spot in the third round.
The 26-year-old Czech went down a set before unleashing a devastating flurry of aces and winners in her 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory.
Once roused, she lost only one of 15 games in a match that was affected by several short rain interruptions.
"The match had a bit of everything, some breaks, some good tennis, some bad mistakes from me too," she said.
"The first set was not very good from my side. My focus wasn't very good but I managed to get back in the match and win it."
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Updated: January 17, 2019 03:49 PM