Victoria Azarenka had her first tough day on court at the Australian Open but succeeded in getting to her 16th major quarterfinal at Rod Laver Arena Monday. The former champ defeated Barbora Strycova 6-2, 6-4 to give her a ninth consecutive win this season and fifth overall against the Czech.
This was the third year in a row that the two have played one another near the middle part of the tournament. Last year, Azarenka held her off to win in straight sets with an unbelievable finish to the second set. With the Belorussian in top notch health, the former number one would try to make it three in a row to get her spot in the quarterfinal.
Strycova knows how to be competitive and so far she has done very well after knocking out third seeded Garbine Muguruza in a straight sets victory. With her taking out a top contender, she would try to do it a second time but would have to work against one of the strongest serves in the WTA.
She brought the fire in her opening serve landing two aces, giving her a swift victory and a great statement to start the match. Azarenka won her game on a love service that dominated the Czech. Things were sitting tight between the two tennis stars, but in the fifth Azarenka struck hard for the lead. Her break against Strycova gave her a chance to move ahead while conducting service to her opponent.
She won a second love service against Strycova that led to frustrations boiling for Strycova. She tried to iron things out in the seventh, but despite forcing Azarenka to deuce, she lost control and fell down three games straight. The Belorussian saw her completion of the set coming to a successful close as the former number one got it done in 32 minutes.
The same couldn’t be said for the second as Strycova found her performance to strike in the first game and stay that way throughout. Six games went by between Azarenka and the Czech where it was the lower ranked player leading the way. She pushed ahead 4-3 but still had her adversary fighting hard to win games.
The eighth went nearly ten minutes with a thrilling fight on deuce but a hard grind from Azarenka put her in a spot to close out the match. Strycova served things in the ninth where no matter how much Azarenka fired the ball; she was there to get it giving her the win to stay alive.
Azarenka got the ball in her hands to serve for the match on her second attempt to put things away. With tremendous focus and a last charge from Strycova, the Belorussian won it on a unforced error by the Czech ending the 1 hour and 26 minute match. “I went through, played smart and aggressive I took my opportunities and kept my composure,” Azarenka said to Rene Stubbs during her on court interview.
“I’m really happy. I think enjoying myself on the court really helps me physically to be in good shape. I tried to do the best that I can. The four games I lost are all credit to Barbora. She really pushed me but I’m just happy that I’m able to keep my focus and stay composed.”
Composure is what will be on her agenda, as she’ll face Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinal that she defeated in Brisbane. “I’m looking forward to that,” said Azarenka. “We always have amazing battles. She’s such a fighter so I just want to make sure I enjoy myself and do my best.”