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Monday, January 30, 2023
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Monday, January 30, 2023
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    Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka beats Pegula

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Victoria Azarenka displayed the same confident brand of hard-hitting baseline tennis that carried her to two Australian Open titles and the number one ranking a decade ago, beating Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 yesterday to return to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

    Azarenka won the 2012 and 2013 championships in Australia, but she had not been back to the final four there since then.

    Now 33 and a mother – she walked out into Rod Laver Arena wearing a jersey from her seven-year-old son’s favourite football team, Paris Saint-Germain – Azarenka, who is from Belarus, delivered big shot after big shot, raced to a 3-0 lead in 12 minutes, and never really let the number three-seeded Pegula, a good friend, get into the match.

    “Leo doesn’t really care so much that I’m playing here,” Azarenka said with a laugh. “He worries more about his football and when are we going to go play again. Obviously, he is watching some matches, but he definitely wants his mom to be home. So a few more days here, and I’ll be back.”

    Might make the trip with a trophy in tow if she keeps playing like this.

    Victoria Azarenka. PHOTO: AP

    Even when Pegula did grab a game, she needed to work so hard for it, erasing six break points before finally holding serve to get on the board. It was a far cry from the sort of success Pegula had earlier in the tournament: She entered yesterday having dropped zero sets and 18 games across four previous matches.

    The number 24-seeded Azarenka’s semi-final opponent will be number 22 Elena Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, who defeated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 yesterday.

    That match was delayed for about 20 minutes in the first set while the main stadium’s retractable roof was shut because of rain.

    Rybakina hit 11 aces to take her tournament-leading total to 35.

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