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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday January 24, 2023

 
Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka pushed past Jessica Pegula to reach the Australian Open semifinal for the first time in 10 years.

Photo Source: Getty

Ten years after her last triumph on the Grand Slam stage, Victoria Azarenka is angling for another shining moment in Melbourne Park.

The 33-year-old Belarusian continued her impressive form on Tuesday night, defeating third-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 to earn her first Top-5 win at a major since 2012.

Tennis Express

Azarenka, who began her run in Melbourne by defeating Sofia Kenin in a battle of the only two former Australian Open champions in the draw, will now face the only other former Grand Slam champion in the draw, 22nd-seeded Elena Rybakina, for a spot in the final.

It will also be a battle between the oldest and youngest players remaining in the draw.

Earlier on Tuesday, 23-year-old Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, powered past Jelena Ostapenko, 6-2, 6-4.

In their fifth career meeting, Azarenka snapped Pegula’s eight match winning streak with steady, pinpoint tennis, as the American struggled with the slow-playing conditions and let the scoreline get away from her in the second set.


Pegula, who falls to 0-5 lifetime in Grand Slam quarterfinals (0-10 in sets) and 2-3 against Azarenka, rebounded from a 3-0 deficit in the opening set, breaking for 4-5 to get back on serve, but she played a poor game on serve and was broken for the set by Azarenka.

The bad vibes seemed to linger for Pegula, who was only able to muster two winners against 10 unforced errors in the second set as Azarenka raced unimpeded to one of her biggest victories in quite some time.

The No.24 seed finished with 17 winners and 20 unforced errors as she broke serve five times on 13 opportunities. She kept Pegula off balance with dizzying variety and won 14 of 20 points at net.


After her victory Azarenka told the crowd that she has made some changes to her off-season regimen, seeking to push herself to higher highs by facing her fears and challenging herself.

“My tennis wasn’t bad [in 2022] but I wasn’t really mentally there,” she said. “I played with a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety and it really was difficult to be brave and make the right choices in the important moments, when you feel anxious and when you feel hesitant.

“I worked a lot on my mindset, challenging myself on things that I wouldn’t really do before, trying to push myself forward, because when you achieve great success, sometimes you become conservative and you become more hesitant to try new things. This off-season I was like, ‘You know what, I will just be open-minded and try new things and put my head down and work hard.’”

Azarenka has rolled through two Top-10 seeds – also No.10 Madison Keys and won two three-set matches to reach her ninth career Grand Slam semifinal, and first since the 2020 US Open.

She improved to 47-12 lifetime at Melbourne Park, the scene of her two Grand Slam titles, which came in 2012 and 2013.

 

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