Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki sets up Maria Sharapova clash in Melbourne

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki sets up Maria Sharapova clash in Melbourne

Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova set up a blockbuster third-round meeting at the Australian Open.

Both women were in formidable form against Swedish opposition at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, with the defending champion beating Johanna Larsson 6-1 6-3 before Sharapova dispatched Rebecca Peterson 6-2 6-1.

After her 6-0 6-0 rout of Harriet Dart in round one, the Russian has dropped the fewest games in the tournament.

She and Peterson did not arrive on Margaret Court Arena until after 11pm, and Sharapova said afterwards: “This is way past my bedtime. I was just thinking what time I’m going to get to sleep.”

The Russian took the final two months of the 2018 season off and admitted after her victory over Dart that her troublesome shoulder continues to cause her pain.

Nearly two years into her comeback from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova has not yet shown signs that she is about to return to the top of the game, but victory over Wozniacki on Friday would certainly be a statement.

The pair have met on 10 occasions before, although not since 2015, with Wozniacki leading 6-4.

Sharapova said: “I think her results, specifically in the past year, speak for her game, how she’s been able to raise her level. I think the grand slam was the one trophy she was looking for. With determination she got there last year.

“She loves playing here, loves everything about this tournament. I certainly have a tough match ahead of me.”

It was generally a good day for the leading names, with second seed Angelique Kerber, fifth seed Sloane Stephens, eighth seed Petra Kvitova and  home hope Ashleigh Barty all winning comfortably.

There will be an exciting clash in round three between highly-fancied Aryna Sabalenka and 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who reached the third round of a slam for the first time with a 6-0 6-2 victory over 24th seed Lesia Tsurenko.

Ninth seed Kiki Bertens did fall, going down 3-6 6-3 6-3 to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Australian wild card Kimberly Birrell upset Donna Vekic.

- Press Association

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