Australian Open Day 9: Azarenka rolls back the years to defeat Pegula; Tsitsipas, Khachanov set semifinal date

In a vintage performance, Victoria Azarenka defeated third seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday to book her place in the semifinal of the Australian Open.

Having played herself into form after a three-hour post-midnight tie in the fourth round, Azarenka was in top shape, showing off the ferocious aggressive baseline game that won her successive Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013, adding a touch of experience to go with it.

The Belarusian’s shotmaking had the normally steely Pegula visibly frustrated She took the ball early and moved her opponent side-to-side with ease, taking up advanced court positioning, if required, to finish points early.

Despite dropping serve twice, her return game was impressive, converting five of 13 break-point opportunities, and winning half the points she faced on Pegula’s serve. The statement win was a big result for the two-time champion, reaching only her second Grand Slam semifinal since 2016, and beating her first top 5 opponent at a Major since 2012.

The next test will be a tough one, as reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina looks on course to storm her way to another Grand Slam final. Rybakina defeated 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 6-2, displaying much of the big-hitting game that was successful in London last year, which also proved effective in defeating World No. 1 Iga Swiatek and last year’s finalist Danielle Collins last week.

Tsitsipas keeps his cool

The men’s draw of the Australian Open has seen many of the top players bow out with less-than-impressive performances, but third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas did not suffer the same fate, defeating Jiri Lehecka 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in an impressive showing. Lehecka came into the encounter after eliminating both Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime last week.

Tsitsipas’ reliable serve kept up, saving each of the eight break points he faced, and despite seeing errors leak from his racquet at the wrong stages in the second set, he reset well to prevail in the tiebreak and keep his cool to round out the straight-sets win.

The Greek will face Karen Khachanov in the semifinal, who prevailed over American Sebastian Korda after the latter retired due to a wrist injury in the third set, having lost the previous two. Olympic silver-medallist Khachanov has become a reliable best-of-five player, following up last year’s US Open semifinal appearance with another in Melbourne.

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