On Tuesday at the Australian Open, two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka turned back the clock, crushing third-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals and keep her chances of winning a third Grand Slam title alive.
This is the 33-year-first old’s trip to the Melbourne Park semifinals in a decade, and her first major semi-final participation since the US Open in 2020, where she ultimately lost the championship match.
Well, it hurts to beat her because I always want her to do well, but at the same time I know I have to play my best tennis, Azarenka said of her friend and practise partner Pegula.
I knew from the first point that I had to bring it since she’s been playing so well and consistently.
There were a lot of rallies, and I wanted to stay in the game and seize opportunities because I knew she would take it all if I didn’t. I’m quite pleased with how well my strategy worked out.
Playing at a very high level, Azarenka raced out to a 3-0 lead over American Pegula in the first set before holding serve and becoming the last woman to successfully defend her Australian Open crown since Victoria Azarenka in 2013.
Azarenka of Belarus found another gear to pull ahead of Pegula in the match, but Pegula broke back in the following game by playing closer to the baseline and dictating the rallies.
With the Kazakh 22nd seed’s victory over former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, former world no. 1 Azarenka gained the decisive advantage and finished off the match to set up a semi-final matchup with Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
Azarenka said, “I can’t believe I made it to the semi-finals of yet another Grand Slam tournament.” “Last year, in particular, I felt like my tennis wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t really mentally there to walk out on the court.” I felt a lot of worry and anxiety on the field, and it was tough to play boldly and confidently in a crucial moment while also overcoming those negative emotions. I did a lot of work on my thinking, pushing myself to do things I normally wouldn’t do in an effort to break out of my comfort zone and attain more success. This offseason, I decided to be open to new experiences and challenges while also focusing on my performance.