Australian Open: Victoria Azarenka Overcomes A Resilient Barbora Strycova

Victoria Azarenka advanced to the Australian Open quarterfinals with a relatively straightforward 6-2, 6-4 victory over Barbora Strycova.

Azarenka goes on five-game spree to close out first set

The match began with Strycova holding to 30, an ace closing out the game. After Azarenka held to love, she had a look on Strycova's serve, generating four break point opportunities, but the Czech saved them well and now held a 2-1 lead. From that point forward, Azarenka would take command. She held to 15 to level the set at two-all. Then, she broke Strycova's serve at 30, needingt only one chance when the Czech dumped a backhand into the middle of the net.

Now ahead 3-2, Azarenka held easily to love and essentially closed the set out at 4-2 up, another break, this time a backhand passing shot down the line after Strycova came into net, hitting a decent volley, but leaving the two-time Aussie Open champion a target, which she hit and gained a 5-2 edge. She held at 30 to close out the set 6-2 on the strength of a five-game run to cap the opening frame.

Strycova improves, but Azarenka toughs out late break to take set and match

An opening hold to 15 by Strycova was followed by a hold at 30 to Azarenka, the score standing at one-all. Holds by each player to 30 were exchanged with the score going to one-all. Another set of holds to 30 by each competitior saw the score level at one-all. The next Strycova service game, Azarenka would claim the only break she would need, easily striking a forehand winner off of an awful Strycova drop shot.

She followed that break with a tough hold, saving two break points in the 11-game marathon. Strycova held to 30 and at 5-4, Azarenka steepd up to serve out the victory, doing so to 15, a final Strycova backhand hitting the net, the Belarusian getting the better of the Czech in Melbourne for the third consecutive year.

Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Azarenka pleased with her performance

"I was more focused on staying focused because she's a type of player that throws you a lot off your rhythm. I was just trying to focus more on execution and be aggressive and follow my game plan from the first point to the last,” Azarenka said. “But I think I played pretty well there. There are things I could have done better I think always. That's the perfectionist in me. But overall, pretty solid. “I played smart. I kept my composure.” 

Kerber next

Azarenka's quarterfinal opponent will be German Angelique Kerber, a player that Azarenka has never lost to in six previous meetings, including the finals of the Brisbane International just two weeks ago. I always look forward to play against her.” 

She always gives me tough matches. I prepare myself for a very tough match because she's very solid, very consistent, and an amazing fighter."

I have to play my best game to beat her, for sure.”