Melbourne - World number eight Caroline Garcia showed no ill
effects of a recent back injury to endure a marathon in the heat on Thursday
and reach the third round of the Australian Open.
But the battling Frenchwoman, who had a breakout year in
2017, was taken all the way by Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova in grinding out a
6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 8-6 victory.
"I tried to keep calm and keep fighting to the
end," said Garcia after two hours and 29 minutes of play on a red-hot
Her 18-year-old opponent, the world number 62, was looking
for a first win over a top-10 opponent and got off to the ideal start by taking
the first set on a tiebreak as temperatures rose into the mid-30s Celsius.
"It's definitely hot," said Garcia. "My feet
are burning. But we know it's like this in Australia -- the next day it can be
Garcia, who won two titles in 2017 and qualified for the WTA
Finals, bounced back to take the second in 34 minutes.
However, the teenager was striking the ball well and forced
the Frenchwoman to save three break points in an attritional third set that
could have gone either way.
At 6-6, 30-40, Vondrousova found a rasping forehand winner
to save a break point. But two points later she cracked, going long to hand
Garcia the edge.
Garcia served out for the match with no further alarm to set
up a third-round meeting with either last year's Croat semi-finalist Mirjana
Lucic-Baroni or Alaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.