Eugenie Bouchard reaches 3rd round at Australian Open

Eugenie Bouchard is back in the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time in two years, defeating China’s Peng Shuai 7-6 (5), 6-2.

Bouchard, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2014, finally closed it out after Peng saved three match points on the Canadian’s serve at 5-1 in the second set on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Melbourne).

Following her break-out year in 2014, which also saw her reach the Wimbledon final, Bouchard struggled to make it past the fourth round at the slams. Her best result last year was the third round at Wimbledon.

Her next opponent will be either CoCo Vandeweghe or Pauline Parmentier, who played later Wednesday.

“Overall, I’m feeling better with each passing day,” Bouchard said.

Defending champ Kerber staves off Witthoeft

Angelique Kerber smiled and waved her arms like an orchestra conductor as the Rod Laver Arena crowd sang “Happy Birthday” after her 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 second-round win.

The defending champion wasn’t completely on song on her 29th birthday, angrily swiping her racket in the second set in a burst of frustration that momentarily threw her off her game — and allowed Carina Witthoeft back into the match.

Top-ranked Kerber was cool and controlled in the first set, but struggled against some deep, powerful forehands late in the second.

In the tiebreaker, she led 3-2 but double-faulted twice — once on either side of the change of ends — as Witthoeft won five straight points to level the match.

The tension mounted when she dropped her serve to open the third set, but Kerber recovered her composure and took a 4-1 lead, saving two break points in the fifth game.

“I’m always playing on my birthday — always in Australia,” said Kerber, who had her major breakthrough here last year by beating Serena Williams in the final. She later won the U.S. Open and replaced Williams as the year-end No. 1. “I feel like at home here. I’m 29. I’m getting older, but I think I’ll have a great day today.”

Williams sisters withdraw from doubles

Speaking of age, Venus Williams had to field questions about getting older after energetic performance in her 6-3, 6-2 second-round win over Stefanie Voegele.

The 36-year-old, seven-time singles major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. Back then, she got to play against the likes of Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.

“I have to talk about this every interview!” Williams said. “I’ve played some of the greats.”

“It’s an honour and privilege to start that young,” she added, laughing, “and play this old.”

Venus and Serena Williams withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus’ right elbow. The sisters have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together, including four at the Australian Open.

Venus thought she could manage the injury and play both singles and doubles, but decided she couldn’t after her singles match went 83 minutes.

In the next round she’ll play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8.

On the men’s side, No. 10 Tomas Berdych had a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison and could meet 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the next stage. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 over Steve Johnson.

Fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori set up a third-round match against Lukas Lacko with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy, and No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

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