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Isner, Keys, power into Australian Open Week 2

January 23, 2016 09:55 AM

By E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

For John Isner, a trip to the second week of the Australian Open was a long-awaited return. For Madison Keys, it was validation of her breakout in Melbourne a year ago.

The two big-serving Americans each powered into the fourth round of the year’s first Grand Slam on Saturday, though neither had it easy. The 10th-seeded Isner rallied to defeat No. 18 seed Feliciano Lopez, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4, and the 15th-seeded Keys edged No. 20 Ana Ivanovic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The two join defending Australian Open champion Serena Williams, who advanced Friday, as the American singles players into the round of 16.

Isner’s victory reversed a decision in the same round against Lopez four years ago, a match the Spaniard won in five hard-fought sets. This time, the 6-foot-10 American’s serve proved too hard to crack. He did not face a single break point throughout the nearly three-hour encounter and smashed an eye-popping 44 aces (against one double fault), bringing his total through three rounds to a tournament-best 101. That far outpaces second-place Lopez, who registered 73 aces in his three matches.

Isner last reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open in 2010, falling in the third round in three of his last four trips Down Under. (He didn’t play in 2013.) On Monday, he faces eighth-seeded David Ferrer looking to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the second time in his career and the first time since the 2011 US Open. Ferrer on Saturday eliminated the only other remaining American in the men’s singles draw, taking out No. 31 Steve Johnson in straight sets.

Ferrer owns a 6-1 career head-to-head mark against Isner, though only two of those seven encounters were decided in straight sets.

Keys staged her Grand Slam breakthrough a year ago in Melbourne, upsetting Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams in the semis. On Saturday, she persevered through a back-and-forth affair with Ivanovic, the former world No. 1 and 2008 Australian Open finalist. After dropping the opening set, the 20-year-old was forced to rally from a 4-2 deficit in the second set and down 3-0 in the final frame.

Keys won 103 points in the match, to 100 for Ivanovic. She next faces Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai, who ousted No. 2 seed Simona Halep in the opening round.

In other American singles results from Saturday, Madison Brengle fell to No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber, 6-1, 6-3, and Varvara Lepchenko lost to Zhang Shuai, also 6-1, 6-3.

Doubles winners included Vania King, who teamed with Russian partner Alla Kudryavtseva to reach the round of 16 by upsetting the No. 11 seeds, Sam Stosur and Yaroslava Shvedova; and CoCo Vandewehge and her partner, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, the No. 12 seeds.

Mixed doubles also kicked off on Saturday, with the all-American team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Bob Bryan, the No. 2 seeds, winning easily. Sloane Stephens also advanced with her partner, Jean-Julian Rojer of the Netherlands.