Birthday girl marches on
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Angelique Kerber survived some nervous moments before fending off American teenager Madison Keys in the third round of the Australian Open, then got to blow out the candles on a cake to celebrate her 25th birthday.
Fifth-seeded Kerber won 6-2, 7-5 on Friday to move into the fourth round, further than she’s ever gone in six trips to the Australian Open.
Local organizers brought Kerber a cake onto court immediately after the match and the crowd at Rod Laver Arena sang "Happy Birthday." She blew out the candles and said thank you.
"Madison is a great young player and it was very tough," said Kerber, a semifinalist last year at Wimbledon. "So happy I won today on my birthday!"
The 17-year-old Keys was playing in the main draw for only the second time at the Australia Open.
Fourth-seeded Angieszka Radwanska, meanwhile, won her 12th match in a row with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Britain’s Heather Watson on the second of the show courts at Melbourne Park.
Radwanska won tournaments in Auckland and Sydney before coming to Melbourne.
"I’m extremely happy to be playing my best tennis from the beginning of the year," Radwanska said. "Hopefully I’ll play on the same level the rest of the tournament."
After soaring to 106 degrees on day four, the temperature dropped into the mid-70s on Friday, and light rain briefly interrupted play on some courts.
Roger Federer has won four Australian Open titles among his 17 majors, and is ordinarily one of the most popular athletes in Australia.
The only problem is this: His 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Nikolay Davydenko on Thursday night set Federer on course for a third-round match against Bernard Tomic, the last remaining Australian in the men’s or women’s draws.
The 20-year-old Tomic beat German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8) in the last afternoon match on the center court at Melbourne Park, keeping his cool on a long, searing day.
Federer praised Tomic’s play for the crowd, and later said he won’t mind for whom or how loud fans are cheering Saturday.
"I don’t think it matters whether he’s the last Australian or 10 more," Federer said. "There’s always excitement about Aussies playing here. I played him here last year. The crowd was great. I expect something similar. If it’s not, if it’s totally for him, that’s fine, too. I’m always excited when the crowd gets into it."
Federer has added a few flashes of color for the year’s opening Grand Slam event -- neon pink shoelaces and trim on the back of his shoes, on the V-neck of his shirt and the swoosh on his black headband. This is quite a departure from the Swiss star’s usual hues and from the bright yellow that seems the predominant shade of choice for player clothes and accessories at this tournament.
"I like to play around with colors," he explained. "Fresh start to a new year. I wore a pink shirt a few years back. It was a best seller, so ...."
The day-time temperature got progressively hotter until late afternoon, meaning top-ranked Victoria Azarenka had it slightly easier in her second-round match -- a 6-1, 6-0 win over Eleni Daniilidou, Greece -- than third-ranked Serena Williams did in the very next match on Rod Laver Arena, a 6-2, 6-0 win over Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
There was concern after she hurt her right ankle Tuesday that an injury might ruin Williams’ run at a third consecutive major title. She said the ankle didn’t bother her as much on Thursday as a split lip, which she did by accidently hitting herself in the face with the racket in the sixth game.
"It’s OK," she said. "It’s a war wound."
"I have never busted it wide open like that," she added, "I was like, ‘Oh, no. I can’t have a tooth fall out.’ That would be horrible."
She next plays Ayumi Morita, one of two Japanese women already in the third round. The other, 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, downed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 7-5.
Other women advancing included former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, No. 16 Roberta Vinci, No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer and Elena Vesnina, who beat No. 21-seeded Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-4, 6-2.
After her singles match, Williams attempted to show there was no serious damage to her ankle by combining with sister Venus in a first-round doubles win later in the afternoon.
That was good preparation for Venus’ third-round match against No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, one of the highlights of Friday’s schedule. Novak Djokovic resumes his bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title when he takes on Radek Stepanek in the third round in the afternoon. No. 4 David Ferrer plays Marcos Baghdatis in the last match in what should be another late finish.
British teenager Laura Robson ensured that the Day Four program ran into Day Five when she rallied to oust No. 8-seeded Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, 2-6, 6-3, 11-9. After coming from a break down in the third set, she missed a chance to serve out the match at 6-5. She made no mistake the second time, in the early hours of Friday.
Robson, who combined with Andy Murray to win an Olympic silver medal in the mixed doubles, will next play 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who beat Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-4, 6-3.
Murray, who won the Olympic gold medal in singles and then went on to break a long British drought for British men by winning the U.S. Open, beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round in Australia.
Among the other men advancing were 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 2008 Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, No. 13 Milos Raonic of Canada, No. 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany and No. 21 Andreas Seppi of Italy.
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