No.8 seed Paula Badosa worked hard to make her first career Round of 16 showing at the Australian Open. The Spaniard survived a second-set comeback by Marta Kostyuk before eking past the Ukrainian teenager 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

Badosa saw a commanding 6-2, 4-2 lead slip away before regrouping in the third set. Currently ranked a career-high No.6 on the back of her Sydney title last week, Badosa clinched victory after 2 hours and 19 minutes for her eighth straight match-win. 

Words from the winner: "I knew she was looking forward to play against me since the day the draw was out, because she told me," Badosa said in her post-match press conference. "I was like, 'OK, it's going to be a battle today.' So I'm really happy that I went through that. 

"I think I played a very good level in the third set. I knew I had to put the best and to go to the limit against her because she was going for it, she was going for the lines. It was very tough."

The two friends: Longtime friends off the court, Badosa knew coming into the match that she did not have a blank check to defeat 19-year-old Kostyuk, despite seemingly holding a competitive advantage by winning their only prior clash, at Australian Open qualifying in 2019.

"When they ask me who can be the next star, I always say Marta," Badosa had said Wednesday after her second-round win. "She has a lot of potential. She's always a dangerous player. I will have to play my best because I know she likes these kind of matches and she will play her best the next day."

That proved to be the case as the pair fired missiles from all sectors of the court in a bruising battle. By the end of the match between two aggressive players, Badosa had five fewer winners than Kostyuk, but also seven fewer unforced errors.

Key moments: Firing her powerful forehand into the corners and onto the lines, Badosa swept through the first set, converting all three of her break points while saving four of the five break points she faced. Badosa eased to a break lead at 4-2 in the second set as well.

However, in the second set, Kostyuk's groundstrokes started to find their targets more regularly, and she broke Badosa for 4-4. Kostyuk later demonstrated all-court proficiency with a drop shot winner to hold for 6-5, which was followed by a four-deuce Badosa service game. Kostyuk gritted out that game to steal the second set.

A dicey decider would settle matters, with five of the first seven games going to the returner. A hold by Badosa for 5-3 ended a run of four straight breaks, and Kostyuk was forced to find strong backhands to stave off two match points before holding for 5-4.

Badosa committed errors on her next two match points, but on her fifth chance, Kostyuk hit a backhand unforced error, and Badosa booked her spot in the second week.

Keys to face Badosa in fourth round

Next up for Badosa will be former Top 10 player Madison Keys of the United States. Keys reached the Australian Open Round of 16 for the fifth time in her career by overcoming Wang Qiang of China 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

The 51st-ranked Keys, whose career highlights include the 2015 Australian Open semifinals as well as the 2017 US Open final, needed to go down to the wire to squeak past Wang, a former No.12 who currently sits at 110th in the rankings.

Keys is now 3-1 against Wang overall, and 2-0 against her at the Australian Open, having defeated the Chinese player in the 2018 first round in Melbourne. The victory continues the American's run of good form which saw her pick up her sixth career WTA singles title last week in Adelaide.

"At the beginning of the second set, I just kind of thought, ‘Well, I might as well just swing, I’m already down a set,'" Keys said after her win. "Might as well see if this works.

"I was just really trying to keep giving myself the opportunity to get back into the match, and then once I was able to do that, in the third set I think we both really raised our levels, and played a really, really close match. I think in the tiebreak, I kind of blacked out and it was some of my best tennis."

Keys' winning streak almost ended as she went toe-to-toe with Wang to the end. But in the decisive 10-point match-tiebreak, Keys dominated, firing an array of winners to build a staggering 8-0 lead.

A winning volley got Wang on the board for 8-1, but Keys closed out the match three points later to collect her eighth straight match-win, meaning she and her upcoming opponent Badosa have identical winning streaks.

Photo by Getty Images

Azarenka dispatches Svitolina

Earlier on Friday, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka became the first player to reach the Round of 16. The No.24 seed from Belarus dismissed No.15 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2.

Azarenka came into the match with an undefeated 4-0 record against Svitolina, and the former World No.1 maintained her mastery over her rival, sweeping to victory after just 1 hour and 7 minutes of play.

Between 2009 and 2016, Azarenka reached at least the fourth round in Melbourne for eight consecutive years, peaking with her two career Grand Slam titles in 2012 and 2013. But this year marks her first trip this far since then, and her ninth overall.

In her first match against a Top 20 player at this major since her 2016 quarterfinal run, Azarenka was in impressive form, with 17 winners to just nine unforced errors, and success at 11 of her 12 forays to the net.

"I thought I was really well-executing my game plan," Azarenka said. "I wanted to put as much pressure as I could on her and kind of not let her come into the match. She's an amazing fighter. I know if I give her a little room, she's going to get back out there. That was my purpose today, and I think I executed that well."

Azarenka dominated from the jump, cruising through the first set in 26 minutes without facing a break point and eventually reeling off the first eight games.

In the second set, Svitolina tried to battle her way into the match, getting on the scoreboard at last with a hold for 2-1. Svitolina garnered her first break point of the clash to level at 2-2, but more errors by the Ukrainian squandered that opportunity.

Svitolina gave Azarenka her sternest test of the day in the last game of the match, which took 10 minutes and forced Azarenka to save three of the four break points she faced all day.

Azarenka saw five match points come and go in that game, but she ultimately converted her sixth chance after a netted forehand return by Svitolina, lining up a fourth-round showdown with No.4 seed Barbora Krejcikova.

Pegula holds off Parrizas Diaz

Jessica Pegula started her own streak of deep runs at the Australian Open. The No.21 seed from the United States has returned to the Round of 16 after defeating Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain 7-6(3), 6-2.

Pegula reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Melbourne last season, and the American is now just one win away from matching that showing following her 1-hour and 33-minute victory over No.63 Parrizas Diaz.

At the age of 30, Parrizas Diaz had a breakthrough 2021, which she started barely inside the Top 200. Currently at her career-high ranking, she played her first Grand Slam event at the 2021 US Open and captured her first Grand Slam match-win this week.

But after a tight first set all the way through 3-3 in the tiebreak, Pegula took charge, winning the final four points of that breaker and easing through the second set.

At 5-2 in the second set, Pegula converted her first match point with her seventh ace of the day, setting up a battle against No.5 seed Maria Sakkari in the Round of 16.