Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki was in ominous touch Thursday as she blasted into the Australian Open third round to set up a blockbuster meeting with Britain’s Johanna Konta.
The 17th seed, angling for her first Grand Slam title, smashed Donna Vekic 6-1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena, barely putting a foot wrong.
Diminutive Dominika Cibulkova kept her Australian Open campaign on track as the sixth seed moved deeper into a tournament that has happy memories. The 27-year-old Slovak, travelling under the radar despite winning the WTA Finals in October, saw off Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei on Margaret Court Arena 6-4, 7-6 (10/8), winning on her fifth match point.
It sets up a third-round clash against Russian 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova, who progressed after her opponent Sara Errani retired while losing 6-2, 3-2 with what appeared to be a leg injury.
The football-mad Wozniacki, a big Liverpool supporter, has put injury struggles aside and enjoyed a resurgence over the past year, with her form impressive so far in Melbourne.
Her reward for beating Croatia’s Vekic, whose boyfriend Stan Wawrinka was watching from the sidelines, is a showdown with Konta, who has also been in fine fettle.
“It’s such a great court. Always amazing playing the biggest courts in tennis,” she said, of once again being on centre court at Melbourne Park.
She came out of the gates flying against 20-year-old Vekic, ranked 99 in the world, and raced to a 5-0 lead in a one-sided contest before the Croat got on the scoreboard.
It was tighter in the second set but Wozniacki, who prides herself on being one of the fittest players on tour, chased down every ball and never gave up to run out an easy winner.
“I know how she played and knew what to expect,” she said of Vekic. “I practise with her sometimes and I just tried to stay focused.”
Wozniacki’s performance so far in Melbourne has been a welcome relief for a player who had been on a depressing downward slide at the first Grand Slam of the year.
She made the semis in 2011 but regressed one stage each year since, exiting in the quarter-finals in 2012, then the fourth round, all the way to a first-round departure 12 months ago.