MELBOURNE, Australia -- Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova and No. 6 Belinda Bencic went the same way as Serena Williams and defending champion Naomi Osaka did the day before -- exiting the Australian Open in a chaotic third round.
Pliskova, a semifinalist here last year, lost 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) to 30th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova today in a match lasting almost 21/2 hours. It was an ominous start, with Pliskova needing almost 18 minutes and fending off six break-point chances before holding in her first service game.
Seven-time Australian Open champion Williams and Osaka lost at the same stage the previous day, when 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki went into retirement after a loss. Williams lost to Wang Qiang, a player she'd beaten in 44 minutes at last year's U.S. Open. Osaka, who won back-to-back majors at the 2018 U.S. Open and last year here in Australia, lost to 15-year-old Coco Gauff.
Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber bucked the trend by beating Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in today's opening match on Margaret Court Arena.
The 2016 Australian Open winner will play Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in the quarterfinals.
"It was a tough battle," the 17th-seeded Kerber said. "It's great to be in the second week in Melbourne again. It's still a long way."
Bencic, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open last September, was rolled 6-0, 6-1 in 49 minutes by 28th-seeded Anett Kontaveit, who will next play Iga Swiatek, the No. 59-ranked player from Poland who took out 19th-seeded Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-3.
Also today, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the fourth round.
Halep was the tournament runner-up in 2018 to Wozniacki and went on to win the French Open a few months later for her first major.
The 67th-ranked Gauff took the latest step in her quick progression, becoming the youngest player in the professional era to eliminate the defending women's champion at the Australian Open, beating Osaka 6-3, 6-4.
Only once the last point had been played did the preternaturally poised Gauff turn into a rather typical teen, joking about wanting to take "a selfie for Instagram" with Rod Laver, the 11-time major champion after whom the tournament's main stadium is named.
"Honestly, like, what is my life? Like, oh, my gosh," Gauff told the crowd. "Two years ago, I lost first round in juniors and now I'm here. This is crazy."
It certainly is remarkable.
With a booming serve, a top-flight backhand and a winner's mentality, Gauff reversed the result from the first time she was across the net from Osaka, a former No. 1 who already owns two major titles at the age of 22.
When they played each other at the U.S. Open last September, Osaka won in two quick sets and then consoled Gauff, encouraging her to speak to the spectators who were pulling for her.
One reminder of just how young Gauff is: Most of the entrants in this year's junior Australian Open are older than she is.
Another: She is taking online classes and said she's been given permission to turn in homework late, "considering the circumstances."
She also doesn't have an official driver's license quite yet, stuck practicing behind the wheel with a learner's permit.
But put a tennis racket in her hands and move out of the way: Gauff is now 8-2 in her nascent Grand Slam career, with three of those victories coming against women who have multiple major titles.
Sports on 01/25/2020
Print Headline: More high seeds fall at Australian Open