Halep downs Davis in marathon but the Barty party is over
It was a landmark Saturday at Melbourne Park as Simona Halep and Lauren Davis equalled the record for the longest match in Australian Open women's singles history.
Top seed Halep came from a set down to prevail 4-6 6-4 15-13, the 48 games matching the previous mark reached by Chanda Rubin and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1996.
Angelique Kerber prevailed against Maria Sharapova in the battle between the only two grand slam winners left in the draw, while Karolina Pliskova and Carolina Garcia also made it to the fourth round after respective wins over Lucie Safarova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Pliskova will face fellow Czech Barbora Strycova, who ousted Bernarda Pera 6-2 6-2, while Garcia's next opponent is Madison Keys after the American's 6-3 6-4 success over Ana Bogdan.
Not since Chris O'Neil in 1978 has the Australian Open produced a home female winner, and the wait goes on after Ashleigh Barty was knocked out in straight sets by Naomi Osaka.
HALEP'S ANKLE REMAINS A CONCERN AFTER EPIC
The Romanian rolled her left ankle during her first-round win over Destanee Aiava, and the problem will hardly have been helped by her marathon encounter with Davis.
Halep saved three match points at 10-11 0-40, but recovered to hold before securing a break in game 27, eventually getting across the line after three hours and 45 minutes of gripping action.
"It's sore. I felt the pain. It's not recovered," Halep said of the ankle.
"It's impossible to recover after. After this match I think tomorrow is gonna be worse, but I just push, push myself, and we will see what's gonna happen."
She's known as one of the hardest working players in the world and today was no different...-- #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2018
Per @TennisAusGIG, @Simona_Halep expended as much energy in her match against Lauren Davis as eating 18 bananas#AusOpenpic.twitter.com/wYCtJQiCuE
OSAKA NEXT UP FOR HALEP
The wait for a home women's champion will extend into a 41st year after Barty went down 6-4 6-2 to the unseeded Osaka.
Ranked 72nd in the world, Osaka's next challenge comes in the form of Halep, and the Japanese joked she was feeling tired just watching the Romanian's gruelling clash with Davis.
"I was sweating more watching that match than I was with my match," said a smiling Osaka. "But, yeah, I've played her twice, and both times it was three sets.
"I had fun both times. I feel like I learned a lot. I feel playing the number one is really an honour. No matter what happens, I'll try my best. I'll just see what happens from there."
"I don't really have that many opportunities to play in front of such a big crowd (with) such a good atmosphere. Ash, she's been playing really well. I feel like I shouldn't get upset if I lose a point because she's one of the best players in the world."@Naomi_Osaka_#AusOpenpic.twitter.com/hiSy2c4KlH-- #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2018
EXPERIENCE COULD PROVE KEY FOR KERBER
Having climbed to the top of the rankings after a 2016 that brought glory in Melbourne and at the US Open, Kerber plummeted after failing to build on those triumphs.
The German has started this year well, though, and was a class above 2008 champion Sharapova in a 6-1 6-3 masterclass. She will face Hsieh Su-wei, who knocked out Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 7-5.
"I'm not looking too much ahead. I just looking from match to match, day by day," said Kerber when asked about being the only major winner left in the draw.
"Tomorrow I have another day off where I will go on court and practice. This is what I'm looking forward to.
"I'm not looking too much at who is in the draw, who is not. I'm just looking at every single match."
Only one former #AusOpen champion remains...-- #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2018
Our 21st seed @AngeliqueKerber continues her impressive run of form to advance to the 4R d 2008 champion Maria #Sharapova 6-1 6-3 in 64mins. pic.twitter.com/ptYpISoGb5