Azarenka demolishes Pegula to face Rybakina challenge in semifinal

Victoria Azarenka sailed through the Australian Open quarterfinals to set a clash with Elena Rybakina in the semis after she knocked out third seed American Jessica Pegula on Tuesday.

The 6-4, 6-1 demolition of Pegula means the 33-year-old Belarusian is a serious contender for her third Australian Open title – a decade on from her last.

Pegula was the highest seed left but must wait for a first Slam semi-final as only one player from the top 20 seeds – Aryana Sabalenka who will meet Dona Vekic in the last quarterfinal tomorrow – is now left in the competition.

Azarenka faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the last four after the Kazakh beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-4 after beating Pegula who was considered as the favourite on Tuesday.

“It hurts to beat [Pegula] because I want her to do well and she’d; been playing amazing. We had so many rallies, I wanted to try and stay there and take my opportunities because otherwise she would. I executed my game plan really well and I’m so proud to be in a semi-final of another grand slam,” Azarenka said after the match.

The 2012 and 2013 champion was asked how she feels to be back winning on Rod Laver arena in front of the man himself. “You want to show your best tennis in front of the best,” she replies. “I hope you guys enjoyed watching me because I really tried my best.”

“My tennis wasn’t bad last year but I wasn’t really there mentally and I played with a lot of fear. It’s difficult to be brave when you feel anxious and hesitant so I worked a lot on my mindset, challenging myself because sometimes you can become conservative so I thought I’d be open minded and try new things.”

Earlier in the day, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina was reached as she overpowered Jelena Ostapenko to claim a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

Rybakina of Kazakhstan wrapped up victory in one hour and 19 minutes following a lengthy rain delay on Rod Laver Arena, firing 11 aces and 24 winners as she claimed a dominant 6-2 6-4 victory over Latvia’s Ostapenko.

“I’m super happy to be in the semi-finals for the first time,” said Rybakina, the youngest player left in the women’s draw.

“Of course I was nervous, especially in the last game. I’m super happy I managed the emotions and I played really well today.”

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