Azarenka defeats Pegula in straight sets to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open | Australian Open 2023

like Victoria Azarenka Enduring one of her biggest wins of the last decade, her stratospheric level was a reminder of why she’s achieved so much. Roaming inside the baseline, Azarenka relentlessly grabbed the ball early on and applied constant choking pressure.

Her relentless strength resulted in a massive win both times Australian Open The champion knocked out third seed Jessica Pegula 6-4 6-1 to return to the semi-finals for the first time since 2013.

“I knew I had to play fast, I had to not give her the chance to step in, I had to manipulate it,” she said. “I made some really interesting slides. I was like: You’re doing the right thing. Even if it looks like crap, it’s okay. It’s the right way to do it.”

Pegula was one of the fittest players out there after ripping through all four of her opponents to reach her third consecutive quarter-final at the Australian Open without dropping a set. But in an arena so important to Azarenka’s career, the pressure she placed overwhelmed Pegula.

“She did exactly what she wanted to do,” Pegula said. “She was executing it really well. Hitting the ball deep, taking it early, changing the direction of the ball.”

A decade after Azarenka reached No. 1 in the world and faced Serena Williams in the world’s biggest final, scenes like this were rare. After she took maternity leave in 2016 and gave birth to her son, Leo, she struggled with personal problems, including a custody battle, and consistently failed to rediscover her old form.

Azarenka seemed to have reached a turning point when she arrived 2020 US Open FinalHowever, the push she hoped he would bring never materialised. This is the second time she has reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam since 2016 and her second semi-final since 2013.

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Azarenka attributes some of her recent problems to the stress and anxiety that followed her on the field last season. She said that she was not mentally prepared to play high level tennis, very afraid of failure. After the match, the 33-year-old was enthusiastic and candid about the journey it took him to feel good on the field.

“I don’t think you recognize her right away,” she said. “It builds up until you get to a really bad point where nothing makes sense. You kind of feel lost. I was at a point where I didn’t find anything to feel good about myself, not even a single sentence.”

“I broke some rackets after my match in Ostrava [where she lost in the first round in October]. That was a very difficult moment for me.”

Since then, she has worked on learning how to deal with the feelings and thoughts she has in high-pressure situations. “I kept trying to take one small step forward, another challenge, and another step forward. I learned how to start building a process step by step instead of jumping to conclusions in a situation, jumping to a conclusion or to a goal, and really focusing on the step by step, which is very difficult. It takes a lot of work and daily work.”

Azarenka title here in 2012 It proved to be a defining moment in her career as she reached No. 1 and embarked on a 26-game winning streak before She successfully defended her title. During that second round of the title, medical deadline During her semi-final against Sloane Stephens she became controversial. The backlash left mental scars that took a decade to move from.

Jessica Pegula (left) congratulates Victoria Azarenka on her quarter-final finish. Image: shutterstock

“It was one of the worst things I’ve been through in my career, the way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10:30 p.m. because people didn’t want to believe me,” she said. “I was thinking about it. It took me 10 years to get over it. I finally got over it.”

Ten years after her last Australian Open semi-final, she will face Azarenka Wimbledon Champion, Elena Rybakina, After the Kazakh followed her fourth-round victory over world number one Iga Swiatek, she dominated former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 to reach her second semifinal at a Grand Slam.

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