Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska battled through the pain barrier on Friday to ease past Monica Puig and enter the Australian Open fourth round as she continued her relentless march towards the second week.
The in-form Pole, who won the Shenzhen Open earlier this month, hit back from an early break to reel off nine games in a row and beat the 22-year-old Puerto Rican 6-4, 6-0 in 76 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.
She will now play Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam, who upset 13th-seeded Roberta Vinci, the Italian who ended Serena Williams’ calendar-year Grand Slam bid on her way to the US Open final in September.
Radwanska pulled out of the lead-up Sydney International to rest a troubled left leg, but it is clearly still giving her problems. She needed treatment on her foot at the end of the first set and had the trainer out several times to massage her calf, although she downplayed the issue afterwards.
“I think pain is my second name,” she said. “I have had to get used to it. Pills are not working, tape is not working, so I’ll just have to deal with the pain.”
Radwanska, who shattered dangerous Canadian Eugenie Bouchard’s Grand Slam dream in the second round, is in her 10th consecutive Australian Open and her experience came to the fore against Puig.
The pair had never met before and sounded each other out early in the match, which went on serve in the opening six games before Puig grabbed the advantage after an errant Radwanska backhand.
‘I found my rhythm’
The Miami-based right-hander reached her first WTA final in Sydney earlier this month and had won nine of her last 10 matches, but she couldn’t hold her nerve when serving to go 5-3 ahead.
Instead, a wild volley followed by a loose backhand allowed Radwanska to immediately break back.
The Pole saved two break points to hold serve for 5-4 and then produced some inspired groundstrokes to break again and take the set in 49 minutes.
Radwanska used the changeover to get treatment on her leg but the problem certainly didn’t impede her and she came out firing. She broke a rapidly faltering Puig, a junior finalist at Melbourne Park in 2011 and now ranked 52 in the world, in the second and fourth games.
Demoralised, the Puerto Rican could barely win a point as the Pole raced to a routine victory.
“She started really well, I didn’t expect that,” Radwanska said. “She played really intensely. In the second set I found my rhythm and was serving much better.”
The accomplished Radwanska, who this month eased above Maria Sharapova to be fourth on the rankings, has been in top form for several months, winning the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore and backing up by claiming the title in Shenzhen.
While she has long been among the elite women’s players, she has yet to break through at the Majors, coming closest at Wimbledon in 2012 when she was runner-up to Serena Williams in three sets. Her best showing in Melbourne was the semi-finals in 2014.