MELBOURNE, Australia - No.8 seed Caroline Garcia passed a stern test from unseeded and looming Aliaksandra Sasnovich to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time on Saturday, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
After needing three sets and an 8-6 final set to pass by Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the second round, Garcia looked well on her way to a straight-sets victory as she built a 6-3, 3-1 lead in the match.
Though Sasnovich showed some of the form which took her to her first Premier-level final to begin the year in Brisbane and pushed the match to a decider, the World No.56's upset effort ran out of steam in the decider as Garcia won the last five games of the contest.
"It feels good [to be in the second week]," Garcia said after the match. "Every win is very important, so for sure, I'm very happy with this one. It was a battle again - I played better, I think, and I'm happy to be in the second week. I want to keep going with what I'm doing."
Though she was playing in the third round of the Australian Open for the third time, Garcia had never before been the higher-ranked player at this stage: in 2015, the unseeded Frenchwoman lost to No.7 seed Eugenie Bouchard, and last season, she lost as the No.21 seed to No.16 seed Barbora Strycova.
The Belarusian, one of the in-form players in the draw despite being unseeded by virtue of a giant-killing run to the final at the Brisbane International, was also in uncharted territory at a Grand Slam.
After defeating Christina McHale and 2016 semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, the 23-year-old found herself in the last 32 of a major for the first time in her career.
Though she came into the tournament short on preparation after being forced to retire in her first match in Brisbane, no such questions have surrounded Garcia through three matches in Melbourne.
"For sure, [I have had] som difficult matches, and some tough conditions in the first two matches," Garcia said. "I'm happy how my body is reacting...after Brisbane, it was a little bit complicated, and you never know how your body will react."
After a pair of three-set affairs, Garcia will take on a player who hasn't dropped a set thus far in the fortnight for a spot in the last eight: No.17 Madison Keys.
"She's doing great in the Grand Slams most of the time. She always goes far," Garcia assessed. "She knows how to play the big matches and she did well in her three first matches. I'm looking forward to this match, and it's the kind of match I want to play. In this match, I can improve more."
The pair are tied, 1-1 in their career head-to-head, and Keys won the last match between the two in Wuhan in 2016 in straight sets.
Added Garcia: "I'll try to be more aggressive, as the last time I played against it was a very bad match for me, so I'll try to be a little more aggressive and play better."