Azarenka back in Australian Open quarters after seven-year wait

Azarenka, 33, will face third-seeded American Jessica Pegula for a place in the semifinals

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Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka celebrates after winning her women’s singles match against China’s Zhu Lin. — AFP
Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka celebrates after winning her women’s singles match against China’s Zhu Lin. — AFP

By Reuters

Published: Sun 22 Jan 2023, 11:22 PM

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka reached her first Australian Open quarter-final for seven years as she fended off China's Zhu Lin 4-6 6-1 6-4 in the early hours of Monday.

Azarenka, twice a winner of the title in Melbourne, started slowly and lost the opening set but stormed through the second to take the fourth round match into a decider.

Neither player could hold serve in the third set but Azarenka's greater experience finally pulled her through.

The Belarusian wobbled when serving for the match at 5-4 but hit back from 15-40 to complete the victory at 2.15am local time with an angled crosscourt backhand winner.

Azarenka, 33, will face third-seeded American Jessica Pegula for a place in the semifinals.

"I feel so relieved, it was complete pressure, lots of momentum shifts, there was everything in this match," 24th seed Azarenka said on a sparsely-populated Rod Laver Arena.

"Happy I could handle everything and take my chances and went for it. I've had a couple of close matches this year that didn't go my way so I'm really proud of myself."

Looking ahead to her quarterfinal she said it would be a more familiar opponent, having known liitle about Zhu Lin.

"I've practised a lot with Jess and I'm going to enjoy that one. If I do lose I would rather lose to Jess, but I'm going to give her hell!"

Earlier, Stefanos Tsitsipas battled into the last eight on Sunday but women's top seed Iga Swiatek and a tearful Coco Gauff became the latest big-name victims.

Swiatek's defeat to Elena Rybakina made it the first Grand Slam since the Open era began in 1968 to lose the top two seeds in both the men's and women's draws before the quarter-finals.

That left Greece's Tsitsipas as the highest remaining men's seed at three and he avoided the fate of Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud with a dogged victory over Jannik Sinner.

Tsitsipas, who is pursuing a first major crown, defeated the Italian 15th seed 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a quarter-final with the unseeded Jiri Lehecka.

Giant-killer Sebastian Korda surged into a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal and faces 18th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia.

The American 29th seed came through a rollercoaster 10-point deciding tiebreak to beat 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (10/7).

Korda, whose father Petr won the title in 1998, produced one of the performances of his career to upset two-time Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev in the third round.

The women's draw also has an unfamiliar look after a day of shocks.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina swept past the 2022 French and US Open winner Swiatek 6-4, 6-4 in 1hr 29min at a stunned Rod Laver Arena.

Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, seeded 22, moves on to a last-eight encounter with Jelena Ostapenko.

World number one and hot favourite Swiatek admitted Rybakina deserved to win.

Latvian 17th seed Ostapenko provided the second upset of a crazy few minutes by knocking out seventh seed Gauff 7-5, 6-3 on neighbouring Margaret Court Arena.

The 18-year-old American broke down in tears during an emotional post-match press conference.

She had been favourite to defeat Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open winner.

But the 25-year-old Ostapenko was always in control to ensure that Gauff must wait at least a little longer for a first major title.

Gauff told reporters it was a "little bit frustrating", then her voice began to crack and the tears flowed.

There were no tears for Jessica Pegula however, the American third seed powering into the last eight with a 7-5, 6-2 win over former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.


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