Red-hot Sabalenka coasts into 4th round of Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka extended her win streak to seven matches as she beat Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

The Belarusian player hit 32 winners to beat Mertens, with whom she won the doubles title in Melbourne in 2021.

“It’s really tough to play against her, she’s a great player and is always fighting,” Sabalenka said.

Sabalenka will now play Belinda Bencic after the Swiss player reached the fourth round for the first time since 2016, beating Camila Giorgi 6-2, 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena. The 12th-seeded Bencic was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 but she broke serve in the following game and then served out to love for victory.

“I’m really happy I got a second chance to serve it out,” she said. “But overall I think it was a great match. [At 6-5] I just tried to relax. My coach [Dmitri Tursunov] was showing me relax [signals].”

Bencic won the warm-up event in Adelaide before the Australian Open and has won eight matches in a row.

Former top-ranked Karolina Pliskova also reached the last 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Varvara Gracheva. Pliskova, who last made the second week in Melbourne in 2019, did not face a break point.

“My serve, it can be a really good weapon,” she said. “I’m not doing as much running from the baseline.”

Pliskova next plays Shuai Zhang, who ended the run of American qualifier Katie Volynets 6-3, 6-2.

Donna Vekic advanced to the fourth round for the second time in three years with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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