Victoria Azarenka has reached the Australian Open semifinals for the first time in 10 years following an upset straight-sets defeat of world number three Jessica Pegula.
- Azarenka defeated Pegula 6-4, 6-1
- She has not reached the Australian Open semifinals since 2013
- The two-time champion will play Elena Rybakina in the last four
Not since 2013 — the same year she won her second consecutive Australian Open title — has Azarenka reached the last four at Melbourne Park, doing so via a 6-4, 6-1 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
It will be the 33-year-old’s first semifinal appearance at a major since 2020 when she meets Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Thursday.
“I felt like I executed really well. I thought by executing really well, it paid off and the result came,” Azarenka told reporters after the match.
“I’m very excited. I feel like I definitely appreciate being on the court more now.
“I’m excited to give it another go in the semifinal and try my best.”
Former world number one Azarenka entered the clash with Pegula as the underdog.
Pegula was in brilliant form in the opening four rounds, not dropping a set along the way to reaching the quarterfinals for the third straight year.
She was the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw and considered by many to be the favourite to win the title after world number one Iga Świątek departed the tournament in the fourth round.
But she will have to wait until the French Open later this year for her next opportunity to advance to the semifinals of a major for the first time.
Pegula struggled to match the power of Azarenka’s groundstrokes, making 31 unforced errors for the match.
Azarenka’s variety — highlighted by her frequent visits to the net — also troubled Pegula, whose serve was broken five times.
“I think she did exactly what she wanted to do,” Pegula said of Azarenka.
“She was just executing it, I feel, pretty well tonight. Hitting the ball deep, taking it early, changing the direction on the ball, doing things that I usually like to do to people. She was doing it well.”
Now ranked 24 in the world, Azarenka showed no ill effects from the late finish to her fourth-round win over China’s Zhu Lin, with the match not wrapping up until after 2am AEDT on Monday.
Backing up less than 48 hours later did not seem to bother her, as she raced out to a 3-0 lead after claiming a service break in the second game.
Up until this match, Pegula had not faced a challenge such as that posed by Azarenka, who was able to dictate points at the baseline, especially with her forehand.
This was illustrated in Pegula’s second service game when Azarenka earned six break points before the American nervously held to trail 1-3.
Pegula got a sniff of getting the set back on serve in the seventh game with a break point of her own, however Azarenka clicked back into gear and held for a 5-2 lead.
The Belarusian had set points in each of the next two games, the second of which saw her serve broken for the first time in the match.
All of Pegula’s hard work to get back into the first set came to nothing, however, as she dropped serve in the next game.
She had no answer to Azarenka’s tactic of approaching the net, left helpless by two outstanding volleys from her opponent.
Service breaks were traded early in the second set before Azarenka once again took command.
Leading 2-1, she won four straight games and capped off the match with her fifth break of Pegula’s serve after one hour and 37 minutes on court.