Australian Open: Teenage sensation Linda Fruhvirtova continues 'surreal' grand slam run

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The 17-year-old is currently heading a crop of young Czech women who are expected to make a big impression over the next decade or so.

Her 15-year-old sister Brenda, who qualified for the main draw here, is also among them along with 18-year-old Linda Noskova and 16-year-old Sara Bejlek. Linda Fruhvirtova is already a top-100 player having won her first WTA Tour title in Chennai in September, and showed her all-court talents and love of the big stage in a 7-5 2-6 6-3 victory over former French Open finalist Vondrousova. She is the third woman aged 17 or younger to reach the last 16 here since 2010 after American duo Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova. Both women struggled physically in the final set, with Fruhvirtova taking a medical time-out for what appeared to be a groin problem, but it was Vondrousova who was the more compromised and the teenager reeled off the last five games. She has a good chance to go further, with her fourth-round opponent a fellow unseeded player, albeit a much more experienced one in Croatian Donna Vekic. "It feels pretty surreal," said the teenager. "It's an incredible feeling. I'm just so happy and excited to be able to say, 'Hi second week'. I feel good and I'm excited to playing the next match here." There will be a heavyweight contest between fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka and 12th seed Belinda Bencic, who came into the fortnight as two of the form players. Sabalenka, finally over the serving struggles that saw her hit 56 double faults in four matches here last year, is yet to lose a set this year and eased to a 6-2 6-3 win over 26th seed Elise Mertens. The Belarusian is normally one of the most demonstrative players on court but has made a vow to be more boring to keep herself focused and calm. "I think like there were a few moments when I was about to throw my racket or scream something, and because I held myself really strong in those moments, I feel like it's a little bit more natural right now," she said. Bencic went into the season buoyed by leading Switzerland to the Billie Jean King Cup title in Glasgow in November and reached the last 16 here for the first time in seven years with a 6-2 7-5 win over Camila Giorgi. The 25-year-old will hope to use the inside knowledge of her coach Dmitry Tursunov, who helped Sabalenka break through into the top 10. Tursunov took up the position with Bencic late last season after opting not to continue a trial period with Emma Raducanu. Fourth seed Caroline Garcia survived her first big test of the tournament, recovering from a poor first set to defeat Laura Siegemund 1-6 6-3 6-3, and next faces Pole Magda Linette. Former world number one Karolina Pliskova is also through to the fourth round, where she will take on 23rd seed Zhang Shuai.

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