MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.11 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, last year’s WTA Newcomer of the Year, extended her rich vein of form by ousting rising British player Katie Boulter, 6-3, 6-4, in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.
"The Grand Slams are always something special," said Sabalenka, in her post-match press conference. "I'm so happy to win this match. [Boulter] played great. Me, too, actually. It was a really good match. I'm so happy to reach my third round here."
Sabalenka, ranked at a career-high World No.11, used her fearsome power game to get past rapidly improving Boulter, the current World No.97, in their first-ever meeting, which lasted one hour and 13 minutes.
The Belarusian number one won nearly 80 percent of points when she got her first serve into play, and used her patented aggression to rip 26 winners, double her amount of unforced errors. 22-year-old Boulter acquitted herself well with 23 winners of her own, but Sabalenka was too strong on the day and broke the Brit three times during the match.
"[Boulter's] kind of aggressive player," Sabalenka stated. "She's playing down the lines, a lot of winners. It was really hard to pick up the right corner where she's going, because she's going really hard and really deep, really flat balls. Sometimes it's tough to control them. But I think I did well today. I'm really excited with this result."
"I'm excited to be on this level, to have this opportunity to play with the great players, be one of the great players," Sabalenka continued. "I'm focused on each match. Don't really want to think about titles, then you're not respecting your opponent, and you need to respect them because all of them, they're really great players. All of them, it's really tough to beat."
Sabalenka will now face American teenager Amanda Anisimova in her next match. Anisimova reached the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time in her career by dispatching No.24 seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, 6-0, 6-2, earlier on Wednesday.
Boulter came out firing, standing toe-to-toe with Sabalenka’s power, and was rewarded with a break in the opening game after the Belarusian led 40-15. Sabalenka fought through a tough game to break directly back, but through the first five games, the Brit stayed with the favored seed and her power game.
But Sabalenka began to take command with a love break for 4-2, closing out that game with a blistering backhand return winner. The Brit continued to fight, holding for 5-3 and opening the next game with consecutive return winners, putting her two points from getting back on serve.
Sabalenka, however, had other designs, powering strong serves to get her out of trouble and reach set point. There, a forehand crosscourt winner by the Belarusian sealed the one-set lead. Sabalenka had two more winners and two fewer unforced errors than Boulter had in the opening frame.
Boulter withstood one break point in the opening game of the second set, but was less fortunate in her next service game, as Sabalenka ripped a forehand to set up break point, and converted her chance with a forehand service return winner.
That would end up being the lone break of the second set, as Sabalenka eased through the rest of the set. The No.11 seed claimed a 5-3 lead by blasting an ace on game point, and was able to close out the match two games later after another sterling forehand forced a wide miscue from Boulter on match point.