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Keys, Pliskova, Halep into Open 4th round

US Open finalist Madison Keys has sent a message that her 2017 breakthrough form was no fluke, running roughshod over Romanian Ana Bogdan at the Australian Open.

While world No.1 Simona Halep endured the fright of her life to scrape through to the fourth round on Saturday, Keys didn’t drop a single service game against the 102-ranked Bogdan in her 6-3 6-4 victory.

Returning to Melbourne Park after wrist surgery sidelined her from last year’s Open, the 17th-seeded American blasted her way into the fourth round with 29 winners and six aces on Margaret Court Arena.

Yet to drop a set through her first three matches, Keys’s big hitting from the back of the court wore down the inexperienced Bogdan – playing in her maiden grand slam third round.

“I definitely felt that way,” said Keys, who made a run to the Open semi-finals as a teenager in 2015.

“But she was also getting to a lot of balls and definitely made me play my best tennis.”

Keys, who has spent a tick over three hours on court this week, booked a fourth-round date with eighth seed Caroline Garcia.

The 24-year-old Frenchwoman was pushed all the way by Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, but ground out a 6-3 5-7 6-2 after two hours and five minutes on Hisense Arena.

With the hard-fought win, Garcia – twice a title winner on tour last year – has spent exactly double the amount of time on court as Keys.

“I know its going to be big hitting from both sides,” Garcia said ahead of her first fourth-round clash at Melbourne Park.

“I haven’t played very well last match, so I really want to improve against her.”

Sixth seed Karolina Pliscova, another hoping to break through for her first major in Melbourne, edged out compatriot Lucie Safarova in a tight 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 tussle.

The first break of the all-Czech encounter came in the penultimate game of the second set before Pliskova killed off the 29th-seeded 30-year-old veteran.

“I know the record is pretty good,” the 25-year-old said after taking her head-to-head record to 6-2 against her Fed Cup teammate.

“But, like I say, we always play pretty close.

“Always some tiebreaks, so you never know and I think she can be pretty dangerous on the court.”

Pliskova could meet another countryman in Barbora Strycova in the fourth round, if the 20th seed beats American qualifier Bernarda Pera later on Saturday.

Halep had to save three match points before advancing over world No.76 Lauren Davis 4-6 6-4 15-13 in a true epic stretching three hours and 44 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. The Romanian top seed awaits the winner of Australian Ashleigh Barty’s third-round clash with Japan’s Naomi Osaka.

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