Sabalenka eases past Rogers into Australian Open third round


No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka’s sturdy start to the year continued on Thursday, as she notched a 6-3, 6-1 win over dangerous floater Shelby Rogers in 1 hour and 27 minutes to reach the third round of the 2023 Australian Open.

Fast facts: Sabalenka had won her two previous meetings with World No.51 Rogers, both in 2022. Rogers, though, had pushed Sabalenka to 6-4 in the third set on the hardcourts of Cincinnati.

Moreover, Rogers has had three Top 10 wins at Grand Slams, including over then-World No.1 Ashleigh Barty at the 2021 US Open.

Nevertheless, Sabalenka charged back from a break down in the first set on Rod Laver Arena to remain undefeated against Rogers. Sabalenka hit 32 winners, nearly doubling Rogers’ 17. Sabalenka is now into the third round in Melbourne for the third straight year.

Sabalenka has started this year 6-0, having won the Adelaide International 1 title two weeks ago. It is the second time in the last three years Sabalenka has won her first six matches of the season, having also done so in 2021.

Tale of the match: Sabalenka had saved nearly 80 percent of break points she had faced during her hot start to the year, but Rogers was still able to draw first blood, taking a 3-1 lead in an opening set filled with lengthy games.

Sabalenka fired some flawed forehands in the early stages, but she tuned up her game as the first set wore on, with particular vigor behind her backhand service returns. All told, the No.5 seed reeled off five games in a row to snatch the one-set lead.

In the second set, Sabalenka slammed a backhand winner to save a break point and hold for 1-1. She was untroubled from there, cracking a backhand crosscourt winner to seal the match.

Next up: Sabalenka will face either her former doubles partner, No.26 seed Elise Mertens, or last week’s Hobart champion Lauren Davis in the third round. Sabalenka and Mertens teamed up to win Grand Slam doubles titles at the 2019 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open.

More to come…


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