Melbourne - Angelique
Kerber celebrated her 30th birthday on Thursday by setting up a
mouth-watering clash between the only two former Australian Open
champions left in the draw.
The 21st seed, champion here two years ago, will face 2008 winner
Maria Sharapova in Saturday's glamour clash after beating Croat Donna
Vekic 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 10 minutes.
"We played a lot. We played in Stuttgart. We played in Wimbledon,"
said the German former world number one. "I'm looking forward to playing
Sharapova was equally impressive in beating 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) on Rod Laver Arena.
"You know, it's another tough match here," said Kerber. "We both played in the past a lot of good matches.
"I know that I have to play my best tennis again. I think it will be a
good match. I'm just looking more about me, like how I will prepare,
just playing my game from the first point."
Kerber had a standout 2016 when she won in Australia, beating Serena
Williams in the final, to become the first German since Steffi Graf in
1999 to claim a Grand Slam.
She backed it up by being crowned US Open champion and began 2017 as
world number one, before her form deserted her and she slumped to 21st
by the end of the season.
But a series of wins at the Hopman Cup this month, coupled with
ending a 27-tournament title drought by winning the Sydney International
- her first since the US Open - has restored her confidence.
"It's just the beginning of the year, but I'm feeling the tennis again," she said.
"I know what to do on court. It's like in my mind more similar to 2016 than to 2017."
And was no longer being in her twenties a problem?
"I was waking up this morning, I say, OK the '2' is gone right now,"
Kerber said, smiling. "I mean, I'm feeling the same like yesterday. I'm
still feeling young."
Results from the Australian Open on Thursday:
Albert Ramos (ESP x21) bt Tim Smyczek (USA) 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/2)
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Sam Querrey (USA x13) 6-4, 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 6-2
Nicolas Kicker (ARG) bt Lukas Lacko (SVK) 6-2, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5
Dominic Thiem (AUT x5) bt Denis Kudla (USA) 6-7 (6/8), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
Tomas Berdych (CZE x19) bt Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3
Fabio Fognini (ITA x25) bt Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1
Adrian Mannarino (FRA x26) bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-3
Novak Djokovic (SRB x14) bt Gael Monfils (FRA) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3
Chung Hye-On (KOR) bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 7-6 (7/4), 6-1, 6-1
Julien Benneteau (FRA) bt David Goffin (BEL x7) 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, 7-6 (7/4)
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG x12) bt Karen Khachanov (RUS) 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (0/7), 6-4
Bernarda Pera (USA) bt Johanna Konta (GBR x9) 6-4, 7-5
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE x20) bt Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) 6-3, 6-4
Maria Sharapova (RUS) bt Anastasija Sevastova (LAT x14) 6-1, 7-6 (7/4)
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x26) bt Lesya Tsurenko (UKR) 2-6, 7-5, 6-3
Caroline Garcia (FRA x8) bt Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 8-6
Lauren Davis (USA) bt Andrea Petkovic (GER) 4-6, 6-0, 6-0
Lucie Safarova (CZE x29) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-2, 6-4
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x6) bt Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 6-1, 6-1
Hsieh Su-wei (TPE) bt Garbine Muguruza (ESP x3) 7-6 (7/1), 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) bt Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO x28) 6-3, 6-1
Angelique Kerber (GER x21) bt Donna Vekic (CRO) 6-4, 6-1
Ana Bogdan (ROM) bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 1-6, 6-2, 6-3
Naomi Osaka (JPN) bt Elena Vesnina (RUS x16) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Madison Keys (USA x17) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-0, 6-1