Getting the job done as quickly as possible was at the front of Angelique Kerber’s thinking but the ninth seed surely cannot have expected to fight as much as she was made to in her two sets victory over American Alison Riske.
It was in truth, much, much closer than the 6-3, 6-4 score in 80 minutes suggests.
“I am just happy that I won in two sets, she played really well,” said Kerber. “I tried to focus on my game and not the heat.”
Riske, two and a half years younger at 23, will surely soar past her 53rd ranking this year if she matches her play and endeavour from Friday and this is by far her best Australian Open to date, two first round losses at Melbourne Park her only previous offerings.
She matched Kerber in commitment throughout, the players near identikit in physique and playing style - superb athletes each though the biceps not yet in the class of Serena Williams or the new Sam Stosur look - but patently neither player is a stranger to the gym. It was the German's experience and nerve when it mattered, though, that stole the day.
This should be Kerber’s time. It’s her 26th birthday on Saturday and in the past couple of years she has become something of a staple in the women’s top 10. Her three single titles all came last year and in 2014 already she has reached another WTA final, in Sydney.
The morning began quite somewhat innocuously, Hinsense Arena's roof open once more and the brightness of the sun as dizzying as the heat. It was still.
The first set, 6-3 to the German in 32 minutes, was the warm up only. Despite their baseline inclinations, neither player showed an appetite for staying at the back hitting to and fro all day. Movement was first-rate on both sides of the net, the inclination to win the point outing any caution and despite the heat, both women will have been happy to be first on the order of play for the day.
Four, second-set consecutive breaks of serve were halted when Kerber crucially, and joyously, held serve to edge 5-4 ahead. A shout of “C'mon” and she carried her resolve through to break serve again to take the set and the match 6-4.
“She hit the ball very flat and deep,” said Kerber. “I am really happy to be in the fourth round again.”
Asked whether her choice, aged 13, to follow tennis over a swimming career made sense given the extreme weather, Kerber was adamant.
“I think I made the right decision and really enjoy playing front of you guys,” she said without hesitation.
Italy’s Flavia Pennetta in the last 16 is next to beat to reach her first quarterfinal in Melbourne.