MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Once again, the top seeds were tested on Day 3 of the Australian Open, but experience won the day for No.2 Caroline Wozniacki, No.4 Elina Svitolina, and No.7 Jelena Ostapenko each went three sets to advance to the third round.
The most remarkable comeback belonged to the indefatigable Dane, who came back from 1-5 down to No.119 Jana Fett to win the last six games and win 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, saving two match points en route. Li Na and Angelique Kerber saved match points en route to their respective Australian Open titles. Could Wozniacki do the same this year?
Day 3 left the relatively softer bottom half of the draw with even more pockets of opportunity. With the big day of upsets on Day 1 of the tournament, a first-time semifinalist was already guaranteed out of this half of the draw. On Wednesday, four more seeds fell away: Julia Goerges (l. Cornet), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (l. Bondarenko), Daria Kasatkina (l. Linette), and Daria Gavrilova (l. Mertens).
Elina Svitolina on the brink but on the mend.
The No.4 seed survived a tough challenge from Shenzhen finalist Katerina Siniakova, holding off the big-hitting Czech to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to advance to the third round. By the end of the day Svitolina had to like how her quarter of the draw looked as we head to the third round. She's the only seed remaining in a quarter that includes five players ranked outside the Top 50, with three of them ranked outside of the Top 100:
No.124 Luksika Kumkhum vs. No.81 Petra Martic
No.37 Elise Mertens vs. No.42 Alize Cornet
No.130 Denisa Allertova vs. No.74 Magda Linette
No.521 Marta Kostyuk vs. No.4 Elina Svitolina
On paper, this is a fantastic opportunity for Svitolina to make her first Slam semifinal, but the Ukrainian revealed after her win that she's been dealing with an undisclosed injury or illness that actually left her in doubt for the tournament.
"I had some issues before the start of the [tournament]," Svitolina said without providing further detail. "It was like big question that I'm going to step on court for my first round."
"I'm relieved that I won today. In the end, it doesn't give me the opportunity to play well. I played good tennis in the first match, so you never know. It's a new day what the day is gonna bring. Maybe tomorrow I gonna feel better and gonna feel better for my third round. Of course I'm looking forward for that match, and not every day in the third round, you don't have these opportunities.
"Hopefully my team is going to do everything to make me ready. I have, still, hours to prepare, so I don't want to put this in my head and just take one hour at a time."
Svitolina plays her 15-year-old compatriot Marta Kostyuk in the third round. Get to know the Ukrainian teenager here.
Elise Mertens and Alize Cornet slay seeds
Mertens and Cornet each pulled two remarkable wins to book their third round clash. Cornet played a disciplined match to end No.12 seed Julia Goerges' 15-match winning streak, 6-4, 6-3. Mertens rallied from 0-5 down in the first set to save eight set points and beat No.23 seed Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3 in a match that finished well after 1am.
Mertens' rise through the ranks has been a steadily impressive feat over the last 12 months. Ranked No.127 last January, Mertens skipped Australian Open qualifying and won her first WTA title at the Hobart International instead. That win kicked off a surge up the rankings. She proceeded to another final in Istanbul and her first third round at a Slam at the French Open. Three more semifinals in Bastad, New Haven, and Luxembourg pushed her to a career-best finish at No.37.
Mertens came into the Australian Open on the heels of a successful title defense in Hobart (she won both the singles and doubles with Demi Schurrs), and her incredible comeback against Gavrilova propelled her to her third round debut at Melbourne Park. The even-keeled Mertens' response to it all? "Whoo hoo."
Q. You just missed out on playing this tournament last year. Now you're in the third round.
ELISE MERTENS: Whoo-Hoo.
Q. How do you contextualize the last 12 months?
ELISE MERTENS: Special feelings. The first time in the third round, especially here the first time I'm in main. Of course, I played at the French third round. It's still the second time I'm playing third round, so it's special for me.
Luksika Kumkhum, Magdalena Rybarikova, Kiki Bertens, Magda Linette, Marta Kostyuk, Petra Martic, Elise Mertens, and Anett Kontaveit are all making their third round debuts at Melbourne Park.
SAP Stat of the Day: Welcome to the stage, Marta Kostyuk!
Tweet of the Day:
Photo of the Day:
Quote of the Day: Take it away, Elina....
Q. What do you know about Marta Kostyuk's game? Have you ever practiced with her or played with her?
ELINA SVITOLINA: No, I didn't practice, because, you know, it's like her second women's tournament in her life. No, I didn't really know her before.
I little bit watched her first round. You know, she has nothing to lose, so that's why I know she goes just for everything. You know, like a little bit like headless chicken.