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Kerber sets up Sharapova clash of the champions

21 January 2018

Unseeded Russian Sharapova, back in Melbourne after testing positive for a banned substance following her quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams here in 2016, which resulted in a 15-month ban, had looked menacing in the opening two rounds.

The extreme heat policy at the Australian Open does not use a simple maximum heat, rather a combination of factors including temperature, humidity and wind speed. "It's another tough match here", said Kerber. Both the players were trying their best to beat the other but it was Kerber who rose to the occasion and claimed the match.

"The most important thing is that I could play my game not thinking about the ankle". I think it will be a good match.

Kerber and Sharapova have played seven times before, with the Russian leading 4-3 but having lost the last two of some fine encounters. Kerber is the victor of their past two encounters - on grass at Wimbledon and clay in Stuttgart - but they haven't competed since 2015.

"I obviously have to be more humble this time with my expectations because I haven't played for six months", the 14th-seeded Djokovic said.

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Cornet's woes during her 7-5, 6-4 loss to Mertens came the day after countryman Gael Molfils confessed he thought he was going to collapse during a loss to Novak Djokovic.

And Sharapova is still in search of her championship form.

After Djokovic levelled the match it looked as though Monfils might throw in the towel during a one-sided third set but the 31-year-old offered some late resistance in the fourth.

"Lindsay is wonderful. We've had three years together and she has taught me how to handle big moments like this", said Keys, who made the Australian Open semis in 2015.

"She's had success playing out here in these conditions on these courts".

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Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, a semi-finalist twice in the past four tournaments at Melbourne, needed three sets to see off Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko as she won 2-6 7-5 6-3.

Similar tests exist for former champions in the men's draw.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion took several medical timeouts throughout the confident straight sets win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, appearing to receive treatment on his glute.

Djokovic tweaked his service motion while recovering from an injured right elbow, and used it to good effect in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Donald Young.

"Federer just does everything that much better than Gasquet". The Swiss leads the pair's head-to-head record 16-2 and anticipates a quality match.

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He let Monfils off the hook for most of the second set, too, before finally converting a break point at 4-3. The 2014 champion, seeded ninth, only chose to play in Melbourne on the eve of the tournament and was well below his best as he lost 6-2 6-1 6-4 to Tennys Sandgren of the USA.