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Australian Open: Victoria Azarenka advances into fourth round

Australian Open: Victoria Azarenka advances into fourth round

MELBOURNE, Australia — Before Victoria Azarenka had a chance to analyze both players she might meet next, a question was posed to her son about the two-time Australian Open champion’s third-round performance.

Five-year-old Leo, wearing his sunglasses in the news conference room and sitting on his mother’s knee, responded succinctly: “Awesome!”

Thanks, kid.

Azarenka’s own highlights from her 6-0, 6-2 win over 15th-seeded Elina Svitolina on Friday included the “amount of aggressivity I could bring point after point, applying a lot of pressure, the consistency. The break points I faced, I played really strong.”

“Yeah, taking control of my end of the court,” she added. “I think that’s what I’m more happy about.”

She’ll next play French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who rallied from a set and a break down against No. 26-seeded Jelena Ostapenko to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and advance to the fourth round in singles at Melbourne Park for the first time.

The 24th-seeded Azarenka, who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013 and has been a U.S. Open finalist three times, is into the fourth round here for the first time since 2016 after extending her winning record to 5-0 against Svitolina.

Victoria Azarenka sits with her son Leo at a press conference after her third-round win at the Australian Open.Victoria Azarenka sits with her son Leo at a press conference after her third-round win at the Australian Open.AP

She accumulated nearly twice as many winners, 17, as unforced errors, nine, and never faced a break point. Svitolina made mistake after mistake, 26 unforced errors in all.

Since a quarterfinal run in Australia in 2016, Azarenka lost first-round matches last year and in 2019, and missed the hard-court tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The 32-year-old former world No. 1 from Belarus is feeling comfortable right now, fulfilling the dual roles of player and mother in Melbourne.

Azarenka was asked if it was more demanding, distracting or relaxing to have her son with her on the tour.

“All of the above,” she said, laughing, as Krejcikova and Ostapenko were playing. “It’s definitely not a distraction, I will never say that. Being a parent is not easy. He’s full of personality — I don’t know where he gets it from!”

Leo flipped his tournament credential around on its lanyard as his mother responded to questions from within the room and online. He yawned at least once and blew air onto the microphone.

Victoria AzarenkaVictoria AzarenkaEPA

“I always feel privileged that I’m able to have him here,” Azarenka said. “These kind of moments are really priceless for me. To be able for me to share that with my son is pretty incredible.”

In other results on Day 5, fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari beat No. 28 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 6-1 to move into a fourth-round match against 21st seed Jessica Pegula of the U.S., who beat Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Paula Badosa had a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 win over Marta Kostyuk to move into a fourth-round match against American Madison Keys, who held off Wang Qiang 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2).

On the men’s side, Miomir Kecmanovic is making the most of the absence of his fellow Serbian Novak Djokovic, reaching the fourth round at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 25-seeded Lorenzo Sonego.

He had been drawn to play top-ranked Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, in the first round. But Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 regulations, and Kecmanovic instead faced Salvatore Caruso — a so-called lucky loser from qualifying — in the first round and Tommy Paul in the second.

Kecmanovic will next play 17th-seeded Gael Monfils, who beat No. 16 Cristian Garin 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-3.

The night session later Friday featured two much-anticipated matchups that could lead to an even bigger one.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was to face Amanda Anisimova at Margaret Court Arena, while No. 1 Ash Barty was set to play Camila Giorgi at Rod Laver Arena.

The winners of those two matches will meet each other in a fourth-round contest that could have the feel of a Grand Slam final a week early if it’s Osaka vs. Barty.

Rafael Nadal was to continue his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title with a third-round match against No. 28 Karen Khachanov.