Brady’s magical run continues into Australian Open round of 16

January 21, 2017 06:34 AM

By E.J. Crawford,

Jennifer Brady’s magical run is continuing into the second week of the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old American registered the biggest victory over her young career on Saturday – and posted her sixth consecutive victory in Melbourne Park – dispatching No. 14 seed Elena Vesnina, 7-6, 6-2, to advance to the fourth round of her first Grand Slam main draw.

She was joined there by No. 2 seed and six-time AO champion Serena Williams, who flashed championship form in defeating fellow American Nicole Gibbs, 6-1, 6-3, to reach the fourth round Down Under for the 14th time in her illustrious career.

The dual victories delivered four U.S. women into the round of 16, the most of any country, with Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe having advanced on Friday. The two play Sunday against a pair of Germans, with the 13th-seeded Venus facing Mona Barthel and Vandeweghe looking to unseat top seed and defending Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber.

Brady was a collegiate standout, a two-time All-American at UCLA who turned pro after her sophomore year. She has excelled on the USTA Pro Circuit, winning four titles, including two in 2016, to climb to No. 116 in the world.

That ranking earned Brady the No. 4 seed in the Australian Open Qualifying Tournament, where she won three matches to earn a spot in the main draw. From there, she topped Belgium’s Maryna Zanevska, former Top 40 player Heather Watson and then Vesnina, the 2016 Wimbledon semifinalist, making the Pennsylvania native the most unlikely Week 2 entrant at this year’s event.

Against Vesnina, the 5-foot-10 Cinderella of Melbourne hammered home 10 aces against just one double fault and struck 21 winners while forcing the Russian into a whopping 39 unforced errors.

She will now crack the Top 100 for the first time when the new rankings are released, and with few points to defend the rest of the year, figures to rise even higher.

In the fourth round on Monday, Brady will meet Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, a 34-year-old former junior phenom who is also unseeded, with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line. Lucic-Baroni cleared Brady’s section of the draw with a second-round upset of No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

Serena, meantime, will face No. 16 Barbora Strycova in her pursuit of what would be a record-breaking 23rd career Grand Slam singles title.