MELBOURNE, Jan 20 (Reuters) - World number one Simona Halep saved three match points and overcame throbbing ankle pain to get past Lauren Davis 4-6 6-4 15-13 in a marathon third round encounter at the Australian Open on Saturday.
In a remarkable display of grit, a courageous Halep came back from the brink at 11-10 in the deciding set before finally prevailing over the determined American after three hours and 44 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
Angelique Kerber later ended Maria Sharapova’s quest for a title-winning return at the Melbourne park event, winning the battle of the only remaining former champions 6-1 6-3.
The meeting had the feel of a showpiece final but Sharapova failed to fire while German Kerber came out with all guns blazing and claimed the victory in 64 minutes.
Roger Federer marched into the second week with a 6-2 7-5 6-4 win over Richard Gasquet in just under two hours to stay on track for a 20th grand slam title. The 36-year-old defending champion has now reached the fourth round at Melbourne for the 16th time.
The Swiss was joined in the next round by Novak Djokovic, who overcame a muscle strain in his lower back but still had enough in the tank to ease past Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-3 6-3.
Up next for six-times Australian Open champion Djokovic is South Korean Chung Hyeon, who outlasted fourth seed and fellow young gun Alexander Zverev 5-7 7-6(3) 2-6 6-3 6-0.
Tomas Berdych overpowered Juan Martin del Potro 6-3 6-3 6-2 to reach the fourth round for the 10th time and set up a clash with Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who downed French journeyman Julien Benneteau 3-6 6-2 6-1 4-6 6-3.
Federer eases past Gasquet into fourth round
Indian duo Paes and Raja stun former champions
Djokovic rolls by Ramos-Vinolas to reach fourth round
Kerber thrashes Sharapova to reach fourth round
Angelique Kerber v Maria Sharapova - match stats
Berdych overpowers Del Potro to reach fourth round
Last American standing, Sandgren stoked with ‘silly’ run
Fognini battles past Benneteau in five-set thriller
Zverev collapses to defeat by relentless Chung
Osaka ends local challenge with Barty beating
Brave Halep wins marathon to reach fourth round
Simona Halep v Lauren Davis - match stats
Drama-free Keys flies under radar in Melbourne
Order of play on Saturday
Order of play on Sunday
Highlights of Saturday’s sixth day of the Australian Open, the first grand slam tournament of the year (times in GMT):
Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei beat an ailing Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 7-5 in the third round. Radwanska, who called for the trainer after the first set and sported strapping on her left knee, fought bravely in the second set but the twice Melbourne semi-finalist could not find a way to stop Hsieh.
Champion Roger Federer advanced to the fourth round with a 6-2 7-5 6-4 victory over France’s Richard Gasquet. Federer, chasing his 20th grand slam at the age of 36, came through in just under two hours and has reached the last 16 at Melbourne for the 16th time.
Six-times Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic extended his winning streak to 14 matches against lefthanders at grand slams, beating Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-3 6-3 in the third-round.
0955 STRYCOVA BOOKS ROUND FOUR SPOT, SETS UP PLISKOVA CLASH
Czech Barbora Strycova reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the third consecutive year with a 6-2 6-2 win over American Bernarda Pera.
Strycova will next face compatriot Karolina Pliskova, who she accused of stealing her coach Tomas Krupa last year.
Big-serving Czech Tomas Berdych fired 20 aces in a 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the 2016 winner in Melbourne, delivered a superb performance to beat Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 in the third round.
Kerber, seeded 21st, needed a little more than an hour to see off the 2008 champion, breaking Sharapova’s serve five times.
Next Gen ATP champion Chung Hyeon recorded his first victory over a top-10 player, beating fourth ranked Alexander Zverev 5-7 7-6(3) 2-6 6-3 6-0 in the third round.
The 21-year-old became the first South Korean man to reach the final 16 at the Australian Open.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka ousted home hope Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-2 to reach the round of 16 for the first time in eight grand slam appearances.
Italian Fabio Fognini has equalled his best run at the Australian Open with a 3-6 6-2 6-1 4-6 6-3 third-round victory over France’s Julien Benneteau.
American Tennys Sandgren, ranked 97 in the world, overcame German Maximilian Marterer 5-7 6-3 7-5 7-6(5) to reach the fourth round at a grand slam for the first time.
Sandgren will meet fifth seed Dominic Thiem for a place in the quarter-finals.
Fifth seed Austrian Dominic Thiem recorded 42 winners in a sublime attacking display against France’s Adrian Mannarino with a 6-4 6-2 7-5 victory.
Thiem has now reached the round of 16 or better in his last six grand slam appearances and also matched his previous best at Melbourne Park.
“I‘m a little bit tired of it! I want to go further than fourth round and I’ll give everything to do it for the first time,” he said.
0450 EVERT, AUSTIN HAIL HALEP-DAVIS EPIC
Former American greats Chris Evert and Tracy Austin took to twitter to praise Simona Halep and Lauren Davis for producing a three-set thriller on Rod Laver Arena.
“SO impressed with the great effort from @LaurenDavis93 and @Simona_Halep Both deserved to win that match,” said Evert, who won the Australian Open in 1982 and 1984.
Austin, two-time U.S. Open winner, tweeted: “@Simona_Halep and @LaurenDavis93 are incredible warriors! Both ladies should be so proud-kept digging deeper when it looked like there was nothing left in the tank!”
0400 HALEP COMES THROUGH ROLLER-COASTER
World number one Simon Halep completed her comeback from a set down with a 4-6 6-4 15-13 victory over American Lauren Davis in a pulsating third round encounter.
The Romanian saved three match points in the final set, which lasted over two hours, before serving out the match on her fourth attempt.
“I‘m almost dead, but it was nice that we could show good tennis,” Halep said.
World number eight Caroline Garcia rediscovered her touch in the decider to oust Brisbane finalist Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 5-7 6-2 in the third round and advances to a last 16 encounter against American Madison Keys.
Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova recorded 31 winners, including 11 aces, to beat fellow Czech Lucie Safarova 7-6(6) 7-5 in the third round.
American 17th seed Madison Keys swots aside unseeded Romanian Ana Bogdan 6-3 6-4 at Margaret Court Arena. The U.S. Open finalist will meet eighth seed Caroline Garcia for a place in the quarter-finals.
Play got underway on a mostly sunny morning at Melbourne Park, with top seed Simona Halep battling Lauren Davis at Rod Laver Arena for a place in the last 16. The temperature was 23 degrees Celsius (73F) and forecast to reach a top of 26. Read our preview of the day’s action here: (Compiled by Ian Ransom and Hardik Vyas; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/John O‘Brien)