Stephens made to work for AO win over Babos

Published by AAP

Sloane Stephens plays a forehand in her second round match against Timea Babos at the 2019 Australian Open
The scoreline tells only half the story as Sloane Stephens claimed back-to-back wins at the Australian Open for the first time since 2014.

American fifth seed Sloane Stephens has ended the Australian Open campaign of her former junior doubles partner Timea Babos.

Stephens triumphed 6-3 6-1 although the second-round victory was a more hard-fought one than suggested by the scoreline.

Hungarian Babos was down break point on 23 occasions, but Stephens was only able to convert five of them in a match which lasted one hour and 35 minutes.

“We won three junior Grand Slam doubles [titles] together, so I know she’s a very good player and I had to be patient,” said Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion.

“Her serve is ridiculously good.”

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A former semifinalist in Melbourne, Stephens’ third-round opponent will be Croatian No.31 seed Petra Martic, who ousted Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 7-5.

“I’m kind of conquering all the places I’ve been terrible,” Stephens said after claiming her first back-to-back wins on Australian soil since 2014.

In other early action on Wednesday, French No.19 seed Caroline Garcia eased past Australian wildcard Zoe Hives 6-3 6-3.

Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova upset No.9 seed Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands 3-6 6-3 6-3.

Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich also ousted a seed, beating No.20 Anett Kontaveit from Estonia 6-3 6-3.

Following Stephens onto Rod Laver Arena was 15th seed Ash Barty, who was clinical in her 6-2 6-3 defeat of China’s Yafan Wang.

Barty, a finalist in Sydney last week where she lost a thriller to Petra Kvitova, has now reached the last 32 at Melbourne Park for the third year running thanks to two straight-sets victories this week.

“It’s nice to just get into the tournament, to be honest. I felt like today was pretty clean, except for a couple of games where I got passive,” the Australian said.

“Very happy with the way I have started 2019, not just here in Melbourne but also in Perth and Sydney, hell of a start.”

Next up for Barty is Maria Sakkari, who beat another Australian, Astra Sharma, in the second round.

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