A rejuvenated Victoria Azarenka has been gifted a potential rails run all the way to the Australian Open final following another day of carnage for the women’s seeds.
No.3 Garbine Muguruza from Spain and ninth seed Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic both bit the dust in the third round on Saturday as only nine of the 32 seeds advanced to the second week.
Despite being seeded 14th, Azarenka shapes as the biggest title threat to world No.1 Serena Williams.
The Belarusian crushed young Japanese qualifier Nasomi Osaka 6-1 6-1, meaning she has only conceded a measly five games in her opening three matches.
Next up is Czech Barbora Strycova, who had her previous two Australian Open campaigns ended by Azarenka.
“I don’t really count the games – I just try to focus more on my execution,” said the 26-year-old Azarenka who claimed her only two major titles at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013.
“The score doesn’t really tell the whole story sometimes.
“But I’m pretty happy with the way I’m playing.
“I just want to keep improving from match to match, because it’s only getting harder from here.”
Azarenka is benefiting from a new carefree approach after suffering from depression in late 2014 as her ranking plummeted.
“It started a process for me to just adjust,” she said.
“It’s not easy.
“Obviously it took me over a year to be able to control all that.
“I had a lot of changes and emotions from last year that I still didn’t know how to handle.
“But it’s been amazing. It changed my life, really it did.
“Starting to be happy and organised and disciplined off the court, it changed my life on the court.”
Strycova will take excellent form into Monday’s match against Azarenka after thrashing the third-seeded Muguruza 6-3 6-3.
“Today is a very bad day at the office,” said Muguruza.
“Barbora played very good and also I didn’t play good.
“I just couldn’t find the court or my shots – I didn’t really find my game.”
The highest remaining seed in the bottom half of the women’s draw is No.7 Angelique Kerber, who eased past American Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3.
Her fourth-round opponent will be fellow German Annika Beck, who eased past another compatriot, Laura Siegemund, 6-0 6-4.
But Kerber’s major pedigree pales in comparison to that of Azarenka as she has only twice made it to the last four in 32 previous attempts.
The pair are scheduled to meet in the quarters.
Also through to the fourth round is Australian-born Johanna Konta, who proved far too good for Czech Denisa Allertova in a 6-2 6-2 victory.
Britain’s Konta will take on Russian No.21 seed Elena Makarova, who upset the ninth-seeded Pliskova 6-3 6-2.
Makarova also made an impressive run to the semis last year at Melbourne Park.
WOMEN’S SEEDS KEEP BITING THE DUST
2-Simona Halep (Rou) – lost in 1st round
3-Garbine Muguruza (Esp) – 3rd round
6-Petra Kvitova (Cze)- 2nd round
8-Venus Williams (USA) – 1st round
9-Karolina Pliskova (Cze) – 3rd round
11-Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) – 2nd round
13-Roberta Vinci (Ita) – 3rd round
16-Caroline Wozniacki (Den) – 1st round
17-Sara Errani (Ita) – 1st round
18-Elina Svitolina (Ukr) – 2nd round
19-Jelena Jankovic (Ser) – 2nd round
22-Andrea Petkovic (Ger) – 1st round
23-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) – 2nd round
24-Sloane Stephens (USA) – 1st round
25-Samantha Stosur (Aus) – 1st round
26-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) – 1st round
27-Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Svk) – 1st round
28-Kristina Mladenovic (Fra) – 3rd round
29-Irina-Camelia Begu (Rou) – 1st round
30-Sabine Lisicki (Ger) – 2nd round
31-Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr) – 1st round
32-Caroline Garcia (Fra) – 1st round
15-Madison Keys (USA) plays 20-Ana Ivanovic (Srb) in the 3rd round on Saturday evening