Without the loss of a set, Simona Halep has rolled into the second week of the Australian Open for the fifth straight year.
With Saturday's 6-2, 6-1 victory over Montenegrin Danka Kovinic, Halep bettered her season record to 8-0 and her record in the third round of Grand Slams to 21-3. She's won all six sets she's played in at the Australian Open so far and has only lost 12 games.
Against Kovinic, Halep won eight straight games from 2-2 in the first set to take command of the match. Kovinic, a three-set winner against qualifier Jang Su-jeong and US Open champion Emma Raducanu to become the first player from her country to reach the third round at a Grand Slam, held from 30-30 to stop the streak, and Halep denied her an opportunity to break for 2-2 before winning the last four games.
"It was a great match," Halep said in victory. "I think I played good tennis. She was a little bit tired and exhausted, but I'm pleased with the way I played. I feel good to be in the second week."
Steady Mertens into fourth round again
Since reaching the semifinals of the 2018 Australian Open, Elise Mertens has never lost before the third round of a Grand Slam, and reached the fourth round or better eight times. On Saturday, she made it nine with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Zhang Shuai of China.
The No.19 seed needed just 70 minutes to defeat Zhang, a win in which she broke serve five times. She advances to a meeting in the last 16 with No.27 seed Danielle Collins, who toughed out a three-set win over Danish teenager Clara Tauson from a set and a break down.
"To win is always a good thing. Most of all, I'm pleased about my performance. I think I served pretty well, and that made my service game a bit easier," Mertens said in victory.
"I think it was very hot today, and the balls were flying a little bit, so I think I controlled that pretty well. She was making a bit more mistakes than she used to maybe, but I think overall, [it was] a consistent match for me."
Scouting Collins vs. Mertens: The pair have split two prior meetings, but it was Collins who scored a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the third round of the WTA 500 event in Chicago last fall.
Kanepi finally reaches second week with comeback vs. Inglis
At 36, former World No.15 and six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi is the oldest woman left in the singles draw. With a 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 comeback against Aussie wildcard Maddison Inglis, she's reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career.
Twice reaching the last eight in at each of the other three majors, Kanepi first reached the third round at the Australian Open in 2009, and followed that up with third-round showings in 2018 and 2021. For her first second-week showing Down Under, she rallied after an erratic opener to overpower the 24-year-old Inglis, winning the last seven games.
Turning point: Kanepi made half of her 28 unforced errors for the match in the opening set, balanced out by only eight winners. By the end of 91 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, it was Inglis who lacked the consistency of the match's early stages. In the final set, the Aussie hit just one winner to 12 unforced, and won just seven points.
Words from the winner: "I never thought I would start liking to play in Australia as I do now, at almost the end," Kanepi joked after the match. "She played really good in the beginning and I thought it was going to be really tough to beat her today. I tried to just put the balls back in the court and see what happens."