Melbourne, Australia (Sports Network) - Top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka was on the ropes in her third-round match at the Australian Open, but she overcame American Jamie Hampton in three sets.
American Serena Williams, a five-time Aussie champ, also reached the fourth round Saturday thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Japan's Ayumi Morita.
Azarenka's 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win came only after the native of Belarus rallied against Hampton, who was suffering from chronic back problems during the match. After the encounter, Hampton revealed she had a pair of herniated disks in her lower back.
"Hurt my back last year at the French Open pretty badly," Hampton said. "It's something I deal with day to day, and, yeah, it was hurting. Normally when my back starts hurting I start cramping."
Hampton, ranked 63rd in the world, was ahead 2-1 in the final set, but she couldn't convert key break point opportunities and suffered 47 unforced errors. Even being down 4-2 in that last set, Hampton raced to a 40-0 lead in the seventh game, but Azarenka saved all three break point chances and then finished off the match in 2 hours, 9 minutes.
Williams recorded the fifth-fastest serve in the history of women's tennis, rocketing one 128.7 mph in a quick first set. Morita took the first three games of the second before Williams came storming back in dominating fashion.
The 15-time Grand Slam champion Williams is the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champ who is seeking a third straight major title.
Also Saturday, 14th-seeded Russian Maria Kirilenko disposed of 20th-seeded Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two- time major champion, defeated Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to advance to the round of 16 as well.