MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka displayed the identical assured model of hard-hitting baseline tennis that carried her to 2 Australian Open titles and the No. 1 rating a decade in the past, beating Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday evening to return to the semifinals at Melbourne Park.
Azarenka gained the 2012 and 2013 championships in Australia, however she had not been again to the ultimate 4 since then.
Now 33 and a mom — she walked out into Rod Laver Area carrying a jersey from her 7-year-old son’s favourite soccer workforce, Paris Saint-Germain — Azarenka, who’s from Belarus, delivered huge shot after huge shot, raced to a 3-0 lead in 12 minutes, and by no means actually let the No. 3-seeded Pegula, a superb buddy, get into the match.
“Leo does not actually care a lot that I am taking part in right here,” Azarenka stated with fun. “He worries extra about his soccer from him and when we’re going to go play once more. Clearly, he’s watching some matches, however he undoubtedly desires his mother to be house. So just a few extra days right here, and I will be again.”
Would possibly make the journey with a trophy in tow if she retains taking part in like this.
Even when Pegula did seize a recreation, she wanted to work so exhausting for it, erasing six break factors earlier than lastly holding serve to get on the board. It was a far cry from the type of success Pegula had earlier within the match: She entered Tuesday having dropped zero units and 18 video games throughout 4 earlier matches.
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The No. 24-seeded Azarenka’s semifinal opponent shall be No. 22 Elena Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, who defeated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday afternoon. That match was delayed for about 20 minutes within the first set whereas the primary stadium’s retractable roof was shut due to rain.
Rybakina hit 11 aces to take her tournament-leading complete to 35.
“I bought all of the expertise at Wimbledon, and it is serving to me now this time, right here in Australia, and I do know what to anticipate,” stated Rybakina, who was born in Moscow however has represented Kazakhstan since 2018 as a result of it supplied to fund her tennis profession. “For positive, it is simply simpler on this case.”
In males’s motion, Karen Khachanov reached his first semifinal at Melbourne Park — and made his second consecutive journey to the ultimate 4 at a Grand Slam match, following his run on the US Open final September — when 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda stopped taking part in within the third set due to an injured proper wrist.
Khachanov will face both No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece or unseeded Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic for a berth within the males’s remaining. Tsitsipas and Lehecka had been scheduled to play their quarterfinal Tuesday evening.
Korda, whose father Petr was the 1998 champion in Australia, felt ache in his wrist when he mishit a forehand service return within the second set. He known as for a coach to look at and tape it. However Korda retired from the match whereas trailing 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-0.
Quickly, Khachanov was doing an on-court winner’s interview, telling the spectators to supply applause for his injured opponent, whereas Korda was strolling towards the locker room, a purple tools bag over his left shoulder and a sore look on his face.
“I form of reinvented myself, I’d say. I at all times believed in myself, however there are at all times ups and downs,” stated Khachanov, a 26-year-old Russian who’s seeded No. 8. “And typically when you’ve this nice outcome, it simply reveals you what you’re able to. of and also you begin to consider increasingly.”
Korda’s wrist first bothered him throughout a tune-up match in Adelaide earlier this month, however he stated it appeared to be high-quality over the previous two weeks till Tuesday.
“I form of felt that spot that I used to be feeling earlier than,” Korda stated. “Some forehands, I could not even maintain the racket. Volleying was virtually unimaginable for me. So it was a little bit robust.”
A 3-time runner-up on the US Open, most lately in 2020, Azarenka has at all times performed most successfully on exhausting courts, and that confirmed once more on this night. She repeatedly bought the higher of prolonged exchanges of forehands and backhands; Pegula made eight of the match’s first 10 unforced errors.
After some misses, Pegula would sigh, roll her eyes, droop her shoulders. She typically seemed into the stands at her coach, Davis Witt, to say one thing, together with one exclamation concerning the ball velocity of “It is so… gradual!”
“It hurts to beat her, as a result of I at all times need her to do effectively. But in addition, on the identical time, I do know I’ve to play my finest tennis. … I knew from the primary level I’ve to convey it,” Azarenka stated. “We had so many rallies, and I simply needed to attempt to keep there, take alternatives, as a result of she was going to take all the things if I do not attempt to win it myself.”
Pegula, a 28-year-old from New York, was taking part in within the quarterfinals in Melbourne for the third yr in a row however fell to 0-5 for her profession at that stage in Grand Slam tournaments. Her dad and mom of her personal the NFL’s Buffalo Payments, and Pegula wore a patch on her skirt throughout matches with the No. 3, the jersey variety of participant Damar Hamlin, who collapsed on the sector throughout a recreation on Jan. 2.
Her exit Tuesday leaves No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka because the lone top-20 lady nonetheless within the bracket. On Wednesday, Sabalenka will play unseeded Donna Vekic within the quarterfinals, whereas No. 30 Karolina Pliskova faces unseeded Magda Linette.
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