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Women's wrap: Swiatek efficient, Sabalenka digs deep

  • Dan Imhoff

Iga Swiatek is the prototype employee for the modern workplace – savvy, results-driven and thrives in a flexible environment.

The 20-year-old – who avoided the struggles second seed Aryna Sabalenka endured or the fate of sixth seed Anett Kontaveit at the Australian Open on Thursday – insisted a healthy work-life balance was essential as she grappled with life as a Grand Slam champion.

A 6-2 6-2 winner over Rebecca Peterson, the appointment of new coach Tomasz Witkorowski in the off-season was already helping the Pole hit key performance indicators.

His appointment though came with a caveat.

MORE: Women's singles results AO 2022

Witkorowski had to understand "going to the beach or going to the cinema" would be part of the schedule and had to work well alongside Swiatek's sports psychologist.

"Just be open-minded and maybe be sometimes patient because I like to discuss a lot," Swiatek said of the working arrangement following her first-round win. "I'm not that kind of person who just listens and does stuff."

Swiatek's victory over Sweden's best, Peterson, was a lesson in efficiency on Thursday, proof this working arrangement was progressing just fine.

"Grand Slams are never easy, so I wanted to start with a lot of confidence and for sure these two matches gave me a lot," Swiatek said. "I'm finding my rhythm and the weather changed a little bit so I've got to get used to the conditions again, but yeah it's great, I love it here."

MORE: Women's singles draw AO 2022

The 95th-ranked Peterson had landed a career-best result over world No.2 Sabalenka leading into her fourth Melbourne Park campaign, but for all her fight fell behind a telling break in the third game of the second set.

On a blue-sky summer's day Swiatek made a compelling case for potential beach time later when she bagged the double break for 4-1.

She completed the assignment at the top of her agenda in 78 minutes with 19 winners to just six from her opponent.

Swiatek awaited compatriot Magda Linette or 25th seed Daria Kasatkina for her third consecutive fourth-round berth.

"I think in both matches that I lost here against Anette Kontaveit and (Simona) Halep, I could see that they had more experience," the seventh seed said.

"I'm also the one that was on tour for three years now, so I feel like it's going to be easier for me to adjust and find solutions."

For the second time in as many matches, second seed Aryna Sabalenka was forced to dig deep from a set down to keep her Australian Open alive.

The Belarusian overcame another rough day on serve – she finished with 19 double faults – but lifted to deny 100th-ranked Wang Xinyu 1-6 6-4 6-2.

Her 20-year-old Chinese opponent had never passed the first round of a major in three previous attempts and gave Sabalenka an almighty scare.

"She hit really hard and served really well… It's tough to play against her. I tried to stay as low as I can and just put the ball back. Make it simple," Sabalenka said.

"I already have a lot of experience playing without the serve and I just kept telling myself 'you have enough shots to still win the match even if you cannot serve' so I think this kind of mentality helped me stay in the game and actually helped me find my serve."

Danish 19-year-old Dane Clara Tauson landed her first top 10 win after she sent sixth seed Kontaveit packing, 6-2 6-4.

A junior champion at Australian Open 2019, the world No.39 dominated the Estonian with 20 winners to just 13 unforced errors.

A semifinalist in the main draw that year, American Danielle Collins, was next, following her 6-3 6-4 victory over Ana Konjuh.

"I didn't really go into this match with the winning thought," Tauson said. "I was just so happy to be here and playing Anett, who's been playing so good the last couple of months. I was just going in to try and see where my level was at and here I am.

"I'm… believing I can play this kind of tennis every single time and see how far it goes."

Elsewhere, Kontaveit’s compatriot Kaia Kanepi backed up her upset of 16th seed Angelique Kerber to move through to the third round with a 6-2 7-6(3) victory over Czech Marie Bouzkova 

Chinese former quarterfinalist Zhang Shuai progressed after Kazakhstani 12th seed Elena Rybakina succumbed to a foot injury 6-4 1-0 (ret), while Belgian 19th seed and former semifinalist Elise Mertens advanced 6-3 6-2 over Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.

In the final women's singles match of the second round, AO 2018 runner-up Simona Halep made light work of Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, the Romanian 14th seed needing just 66 minutes to win 6-2 6-0.

Halep will face Montenegro's Danka Kovinic, who conquered 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, in the third round.