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Aryna Sabalenka destroys rival in brutal Australian Open act not seen since Ash Barty

The Belarusian matched the Aussie legend's feat in extraordinary scenes.

Seen here, Aryna Sabalenka at the Australian Open.
Aryna Sabalenka dished out the first double bagel at the Australian Open since Ash Barty in 2021. Pic: Getty

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka has emulated Aussie tennis legend Ash Barty with a "scary" display in her third round victory at Melbourne Park on Friday. The 25-year-old clearly wasn't ready to become the latest big-name to exit the women's draw as she trounced 28th seed Lesia Tsurenko 6-0 6-0, inflicting a rare double bagel on the Ukrainian in a merciless demolition job on Rod Laver Arena.

Sabalenka needed just 52 minutes to dispatch her hapless rival and set up a fourth round clash against American Amanda Anisimova. The 6-0 6-0 scoreline saw Sabalenka become the first player to inflict a double bagel on an opponent since Barty in 2021.

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The Aussie great famously destroyed Danka Kovinic on that occasion in just 44 minutes, the year before she won the Australian Open title and then announced her retirement from the sport. On Friday, Sabalenka matched the rare feat from the Aussie tennis legend in an ominous warning to her rivals, with Channel Nine commentator Josh Eagle describing the Belarusian as a "tsunami" and a "freight train".

"I'm just super happy with the level I'm playing so far and hopefully I can just keep going like that, or even better," Sabalenka said. In a terrifying prospect for her title challengers this year at Melbourne Park, the 25-year-old insisted she was a better player than the one who beat Elena Rybakina - a second round loser on Thursday - in the 2023 Australian Open title decider.

Aryna Sabalenka in 'scary' form at Aus Open

Sabalenka had only dropped six games across her opening two matches at this year's grand slam tournament, with the Belarusian also handing out a bagel to first round opponent, Ella Seidel. She also crushed Czech Brenda Fruhvirtova in round two and is in blistering form after wiping the floor with her third straight opponent.

Aryna Sabalenka trying to catch Iga Switek

The World No.2's soul-destroying victory over Tsurenko on Friday means she has now handed out three bagels in six sets. Former German star Andrea Petkovic likened the performances from Sabalenka as “sucking the life out” of her stricken rivals, with the Belarusian joking afterwards that she was just trying to match Iga Swiatek.

Poland's World No.1 has formed a formidable reputation of her own for dishing out bagels on opponents. “Last year Iga won so many sets 6-0. This year one of the goals is to get closer to her," Sabalenka said after her latest crushing victory.

Sabalenka will now take on Anisimova for a spot in the quarter-finals after the American continued her impressive comeback to tennis with a straight-sets win over Spanish former world No.2 Paula Badosa. Anisimova overcame some early serving woes and a big first-set deficit to carve out a 7-5 6-4 third-round victory. The 22-year-old American is a one-time French Open semi-finalist and Wimbledon quarter-finalist but missed three of last year's grand slams after taking a hiatus from tennis.

Amanda Anisimova and Aryna Sabalenka will clash in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Pic: Getty
Amanda Anisimova and Aryna Sabalenka will clash in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Pic: Getty

Anisimova didn't look like progressing early on when she coughed up four double-faults to drop her opening two service games and fall behind 4-1 against Badosa. However, she fought back to win five of six of the next seven games to snatch the first set, then the match after one hours and 28 minutes.

"It's quite unbelievable," Anisimova said after the match. "After taking some time off, I'm feeling really good and the most important thing is that I'm enjoying my time out here and I'm just really happy to be playing here and being into the next round."

Anisimova's compatriot and reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff is also through to the last 16 after beating fellow American Alycia Parks 6-0 6-2 in 61 minutes. Gauff is yet to drop a set this tournament and next faces either Poland's Magdalena Frech or Russian qualifier Anastasia Zakharova. Aussie qualifier Storm Hunter continues her singles campaign on Rod Laver Arena against Czech ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova on Friday night.

with AAP

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