WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | It's all starting to take shape in Melbourne with World No.1 Angelique Kerber leading the pack; relive all the highlights from Day 3 at the Australian Open.
WTA Staff

MELBOURNE, Australia - Angelique Kerber celebreated her 29th birthday with a win, but it was Australia's comeback kid who stole hearts on Day 3 at the Australian Open.

Here's what you need to know:

Ashleigh Barty emerges as the feel-good story of the first week.

Mention Ashleigh Barty's name and you'll get a big broad smile around these parts. The 20-year-old was a junior Wimbledon champion at 15 years old and a three-time Slam finalist in doubles before she was 18-years-old. But the attention and pressure from being the next great prospect from a tennis nation like Australia proved too much, and she stepped away from the sport at 17. After a brief stint playing professional cricket in Australia, Barty announced her intention to return the sport last February. As Barty put it then, "Tennis in the end, it just makes sense to me."

Flash-forward 11 months and she's into the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career. It's no surprise that it came on home soil.

Gifted with incredible hands and preternatural tennis IQ, Barty returned to the tour with the one thing she lacked in her junior days: power. That power was on full display two weeks ago when she pushed World No.1 Angelique Kerber to three sets at the Brisbane International. On Wednesday night, Barty put on an arguably better performance, hitting just 11 unforced errors to 29 winners to beat No.52 Shelby Rogers 7-5, 6-1 to advance to the third round.

"Sometimes those things just click for you," Barty said. "Tonight I felt great. I felt like I was in control, had full control of the ball off my racquet. It's certainly nice when those things come together. It feels horrific when it doesn't."

Currently ranked No.223, Barty has shown she's more than ready to eclipse her career-high ranking of No.129. That looks to be coming sooner rather than later, as her two wins in Melbourne have already pushed her up around the Top 150. Barty will play qualifier Mona Barthel, after the German knocked out No.29 seed Monica Puig in straight sets.

Regardless of the outcome, it's great to have you back, Ash.

Carina Witthoeft gets ahead of herself.

It's only human. There was Carina Witthoeft, 21 years old, ranked No.82, German. Across the net was Angelique Kerber, 29 years old today (yes, it was her birthday), ranked No.1, German. And there was the scoreboard, which showed Witthoeft, who has recorded just one win over a Top 20 player in her career, up an early break in the decisive set. Was she really about to knock out the World No.1, the German No.1, and end her compatriot's title defense?

Witthoeft was thinking the same thing. And she went on to lose six of the next seven games, as Kerber scored another resilient win, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2.

"There are a lot of thoughts and sometimes they're good and sometimes they're worse and they bother you," Witthoeft said. In the face of Kerber's unrelenting defense, Witthoeft felt herself pressing, and the errors began to come.

"That's Angie. If you go for too much the chances are there that you'll lose the point because she's running for every ball."

Keep an eye on Alison Riske.

The American is playing solid, steady tennis to start the season. She beat Agnieszka Radwanska to make the Shenzhen Open final and she's into the third round of a Slam for the first time since 2014 Wimbledon (in fact, her first round win over Madison Brengle was her first win at a Slam since that same tournament).

She's into the third round here with a solid 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-1 win over last year's semifinalist and No.20 seed Zhang Shuai. Asked where she feels her early confidence translating on court, Riske pointed to a sense of calm.

"I think mostly it alleviates panic," she said. I think in moments that are tough I don't feel threatened by them. That's the biggest thing. that's what the top players do so well in the crucial moments. To get to where they are, that's the biggest thing. In times of stress they're able to stay cool and I think that's the biggest thing for me too."

Riske was recently engaged, and laughed when asked how the wedding planning was coming. "I'm definitely not planning. My fiance is a little uptight about that, the fact that I'm not planning. But he understands it, his family has been in the tennis business as well. He totally gets it and I'm really fortunate for that. First of all I'm not a party planner. Tennis will be my priority for the next few years so I'm not too worried about it."

Riske plays Sorana Cirstea in the third round and is looking to make the second week at a Slam for the first time since the 2013 US Open.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is resting her body, working her mind.

Kuznetsova isn't playing doubles at the Australian Open, opting to focus on her singles instead. So far so good. She's cruised into the third round and will face Jelena Jankovic. So with a full day off between matches, is Sveta getting bored? Not at all.

"When I have a day off I go to practice and then I try to read books. I'm reading a book about the history of Egypt and Athens. It's very interesting. Something different. I want to develop myself not just as an athlete but it helps in the mentality and being a little bit smarter and wiser in life."

As for Russian literature, "Pushkin, Dostoevsky, of course I read it all, but I can't say I'm really into it. I believe all Russian poetry you gotta read it and feel it when you're older. So I'd like to re-read it with time."

Old habits die hard for Sorana Cirstea.

The Romanian is into the third round of a Slam for the first time since 2011 Wimbledon, beating a hampered No.10 seed Carla Suárez Navarro 7-6, 6-3. The Spaniard has been dealing with a right shoulder injury, which forced her to serve at three-quarter speed and struggle with her backhand.

Unfortunately for Cirstea, she won't be able to celebrate her Melbourne success with her frequent dinner partner of the last few years. Ana Ivanovic was her best friend on tour, but I'm sure she'll be getting a congratulatory message from England later today.

Quote of the Day: "She's No.1 so I guess she's good." 

So...how many people do you think will get confused and call it a US Open final rematch? Karolina's twin sister Kristyna Pliskova is into the third round at a Slam for the second time in her career, beating No.27 seed Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 7-6(8). Now she gets a crack at the World No.1.

"I never played her but she's No.1 so I guess she's good," Pliskova said, laughing. "We will see on Friday."

"I like big courts. I play better. I think it's slower on big courts as well, which I like better."

So will she get some tips from Karolina, who beat Kerber to win the Western & Southern Open last summer? "She's off now but I asked her a couple of things. I hope she's on her phone soon."

Speed it up!

Venus Williams has played two solid matches to open her tournament, beating Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-2. She'll play Duan Ying-Ying in the third round. After her match, Venus was asked about the speed of Rod Laver Arena and about the perceived preference for slower-paced courts recently.

"It may not be as slow as last year, but I think at the same time when the courts get too slow it creates the same kind of player, people who just never come in," she said. "So I think the courts have to be not too slow, not too fast. It's got to be playable. You don't want every ball to come back. At some point there should be a winner. If you're hitting through the court and the ball just sits, that's not tennis. It should go through the court."

Duan Ying-Ying on the rise.

The 27-year-old from -- where else -- Tianjin, has been on fire to start the season. Ranked No.87, Duan had match points on Radwanska in Shenzhen, beat CoCo Vandeweghe at the Apia International, and is into the third round of a Slam for the first time of her career. Duan came through a tough match against Varvara Lepchenko, winning 6-1, 3-6, 10-8, scoring her second win over the American this year.

Some enticing third-round matches set for the top half.

Here's the full slate of third-round matches for the top half of the draw:

Kerber vs. Kr. Pliskova, Bouchard vs. Vandeweghe, Cirstea vs. Riske, Sevastova vs. Muguruza, Barty vs. Barthel, Duan vs. Venus, Svitolina vs. Pavlyuchenkova, and Jankovic vs. Kuznetsova.

Based on form and draw, Venus has a great look to make the quarterfinals. She can't face a Top 80 player before then. The highest-ranked player Muguruza can play before the quarterfinals is Riske at No.42. And keep an eye on Bouchard. She's playing very well, full of confidence, and she could play the spoiler to Kerber's title defense.

Day 4 Matches to Watch:

Naomi Osaka vs. Johanna Konta (1st match, Rod Laver Arena)
Serena Williams vs. Lucie Safarova (1st night match, Rod Laver Arena)
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (1st night match, Margaret Court Arena)
Daria Gavrilova vs. Ana Konjuh (NB 6:30pm, Hisense Arena)
Andrea Petkovic vs. Barbora Strycova (2nd match, Court 3)

And if you know, then you know:
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Yulia Putintseva (1st match, Court 8)