MELBOURNE : World number one Iga Swiatek believes the stiff tests she has faced at the outset of her bid to claim a maiden Australian Open title have helped her shake off the rust as she prepares for a third-round match against Linda Noskova on Saturday.
The Pole battled through a difficult first set to defeat former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in her opening match at Melbourne Park, before having to claw her way back from two breaks down in the third set to beat Danielle Collins on Thursday.
Asked about her draw at the Australian Open, Swiatek told reporters: “I think it was even the toughest one I ever had, maybe even more than when I was unseeded a couple of years back.
“I’m proud to survive this and I’m already thinking about the next goals.
“I don’t mind actually that it was intense because I remember also when I started the tournament with some easy matches, then I felt I was a little bit rusty when the tough moments came…”
Swiatek will fancy her chances against Noskova, who has never reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam before, having beaten the 19-year-old in straight sets last year.
In an intriguing third-round clash in the women’s draw, former Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko will face off for a fourth time in their careers.
The two also met at the Brisbane International last month, with two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka winning that encounter to improve her head-to-head record against Ostapenko to 3-0.
Ukrainian 19th seed Elina Svitolina takes on Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, while Zheng Qinwen and Wang Yafan will meet in an all-Chinese clash during the day session at Rod Laver Arena.
On the men’s side, former world number one Daniil Medvedev, who came through a tough five-setter against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round, comes up against Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime as he chases his second Grand Slam title.
Norwegian Casper Ruud, seeded 11th, closes out proceedings at John Cain Arena against British number one Cameron Norrie, while second seed Carlos Alcaraz faces wild card Shang Juncheng of China.
“I’ve never played against him. So it’s going to be the first time that we face each other. I think it’s going to be great for everyone. I think for him, as well,” Alcaraz said.