Samantha Stosur continued her march through a wide-open women’s draw at the French Open with a classy straight-sets defeat of Slovakian ninth seed Dominika Cibulkova.
The Australian 19th seed won impressively 6-4 6-4 in the third round on Friday to reach the last 16 of a grand slam for the first time since 2012.
It came as third seed Agnieszka Radwanska became the latest big-name women’s casualty at Roland Garros.
The Pole lost to Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-4 to follow the top two seeds, Serena Williams and Li Na, out of the tournament.
Stosur is still likely to have to face 2012 champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, a player she has only beaten twice in 16 attempts.
But she will head into the last 16 buoyed by an encouraging return to form on the red clay that has often brought out her best.
Stosur maintained a perfect record against Australian Open runner-up Cibulkova, having won all four of their previous clashes.
The most recent came only earlier this month on clay in Madrid while Stosur also won their 2012 quarter-final at Roland Garros, when Cibulkova compared the Australian’s awesome power and top-spin to that of a man.
The diminutive Slovakian vowed things would be different this time but she again struggled to deal with the Australian’s big weapons.
Stosur dropped just one point in the opening two games before Cibulkova fought back to 2-2.
However the Australian served strongly and played well on the big points to secure a one-set lead in 46 minutes.
There were some titanic struggles in the second set as Cibulkova showed her fighting qualities.
But a focused Stosur, who made just 12 unforced errors, kept her nose in front and converted her second match point with her 10th ace.
Stosur has not reached the fourth round of a major since her title defence at the 2011 US Open.
After a frustrating start to the season and a drop in the rankings, she’s played some of her best tennis of the year this week and some are mentioning her as a smokey for the title.
Success in Paris is nothing new to 30-year-old Stosur, who reached the final in 2010 and semis in 2009 and 2012.
“I’m very happy with my tennis and today was my toughest match,” Stosur said.
“I thought Dominika played pretty well so I’m very happy to get through this one in straight sets and I look forward to the next round.
“I just love playing here. I’ve had some really great moments here and some of the best matches of my career actually.
“Hopefully I can still have a few more matches like this.”