MELBOURNE, Australia -- World No.2 Caroline Wozniacki continued her march to a possible first Grand Slam title on Friday night, as the 2011 Australian Open semifinalist dispatched No.30 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-3, under the lights on Rod Laver Arena.
Wozniacki, the former World No.1 from Denmark, had won her two previous matches against Bertens without the loss of a set, and the third meeting between the two followed a similar pattern, with the second seed moving into the fourth round in 86 minutes.
Wozniacki, having dodged a bullet in her second round match, will play No.19 seed and 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova in the fourth round.
" I feel good. It's nice to be back in the fourth round here. I was happy to play at night tonight, not during the brutal heat," she said after the match. "Honestly I'm just still happy to be alive in the tournament. We'll see. I'll just do my best in the next round, and hope that's good enough."
The Slovak eliminated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine earlier on Friday by the score of 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.
Long rallies were the name of the game at the start of the match, as both players were quite confident to grind through points until an opportunity arose for a strike, or an error was struck. Bertens had a chance for an early lead right away, holding a break point in the first game of the match, but she missed the ensuing service return.
Wozniacki, on the other hand, took all of the opportunities presented to her in the first few hotly contested games, and, by winning the key points, jumped to a 3-0 lead behind well-placed serves and a varied shot selection.
Bertens, a semifinalist at the French Open in 2016, started to move forward more frequently, putting away volleys, which helped her get a foothold in the match. The Dutchwoman, making her debut appearance in the third round of the Australian Open, began to steadily put games on the board.
Still, Wozniacki had been unbothered on serve since the first game, and, with the Dane serving for the set at 5-3, it looked unlikely that the Dutch player would extend the set any further. However, strong hitting in that game gave Bertens a break point, which she converted to get back on serve.
"I think I played well in a big part of the match. She stepped it up. She started serving really well, getting a lot of first serves in, which made it difficult," Wozniacki assessed. "It was definitely a little bit easier today than it was the other day. I'm going to take it and move forward and just call it a day."
Unfortunately for the Dutchwoman, Wozniacki let off some steam between games, and came back to court rejuvenated. A lovely lob gave the second seed triple set point, and a demoralized Bertens sent a forehand error long to give Wozniacki the opener.
Wozniacki won 75% of points on her first serve in the first set, and was 2-for-2 on break points.
The second set was just as competitive, and both players were strong on serve, with only one break in the set. But that break came early, and it fell Wozniacki's way, as, once more, she took Bertens' serve at 1-0 with some exceptional footspeed and tenacity, en route to a 3-0 lead.
Neither player was in serious danger beyond that until the final game, where cracking winners from Bertens gave her double break point, potentially creating a repeat of the first set. Wozniacki saved those, and picked up two match points, but those both went begging.
A double fault by the increasingly frustrated Dane gave Bertens another break point, but a forehand miscue erased it. Then Wozniacki held a third match point, but a bold forehand winner down the line by Bertens repelled it.
Wozniacki had to save one more break point before she reached a fourth match point, and, finally, Bertens sent a service return long to allow Wozniacki safe passage into the second week.