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.
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.”
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.”