MELBOURNE, Australia — U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has carried her title-winning form in the warmup tournament into the season's first major, dropping just four games en route to the third round at the Australian Open.
Pliskova was leading 6-0, 4-0 today against Anna Blinkova in the second round before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Fifth-seeded Pliskova finished off the 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour — she won her first-round match 6-2, 6-0.
"It's always good to be in the zone," said Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International title earlier this month. "It can always be a bit better."
Pliskova has reached the third round for three straight years at Melbourne Park, which equaled her best previous run at a Grand Slam until she reached the final in New York last September. She beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open before losing to Angelique Kerber.
She next plays Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1.
Johanna Konta advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Naomi Osaka. Konta, voted the WTA Tour's most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, opened the season by winning the Sydney International title last week.
Konta next plays former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Donna Vekic 6-1, 6-3.
In men's second-round matches, No. 18 Richard Gasquet beat Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, and No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Donald Young 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.
No. 30 Pablo Carreno Busta had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund to move into a third-round match against either six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic or Denis Istomin.
Top seed Andy Murray returned to the practice court for an afternoon hitting session under the scrutiny of coach Ivan Lendl, allaying concerns about his injured right ankle. Murray, a five-time runnerup here, twisted his ankle and tumbled to the court during the third set of his otherwise routine second-round win Wednesday.
No. 17 seed Roger Federer beat qualifier Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) Wednesday to maintain his record of never failing to reach the third round at the 18 Australian Opens he has contested. After back-to-back wins over qualifiers, the 17-time Grand Slam champion's comeback from a six-month injury layoff will get tougher. Next up, he faces 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who had a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison.
Murray's shoe caught on the surface and he tumbled to the court at Rod Laver Arena, clutching his right ankle during the third game of the third set against Andrey Rublev.
Murray continued and won that game but told himself, loudly, "It's not good news." He saw a trainer during the next change of ends but decided he didn't need any extra treatment. He went on to win 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
It was Murray's 178th win in a Grand Slam match, joining Stefan Edberg in a tie for eighth on the list of match winners in the Open era.
Murray next faces No. 31 Sam Querrey, who had 7-6 (7-5), 6-0, 6-1 win over wild-card entry Alex De Minaur.
U.S. Open champ Stan Wawrinka advanced 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 over Steve Johnson and next plays No. 29 Viktor Troicki.
Defending champ Angelique Kerber celebrated her 29th birthday — and the crowd sang Happy Birthday to her — with a 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 second-round win over Carina Witthoeft.