Jessica Pegula crashes out of Australian Open as Victoria Azarenka cruises into semis


Victoria Azarenka produced a superb show of tennis to dispatch world No. 3 Jessica Pegula and attain the Australian Open semifinals.

The 2-time Australian Open champion, now ranked twenty fourth on the planet, rolled again the years to beat Pegula, one of the vital constant gamers on the ladies’s tour over the previous couple of seasons and remaining favourite, 6-4 6-1 in only one hour and 37 minutes.

It marks Azarenka’s greatest efficiency in Melbourne since she received the second of her two Australian Open crowns in 2013, as she advances to a second grand slam semifinal since 2020.

“It hurts to beat her as a result of I all the time need her to do effectively,” Azarenka mentioned in her post-match interview. “However I do know I must play my greatest tennis as a result of she’s been so constant. We had so many rallies … I simply needed to keep there and take alternatives.

“I’m very proud that I executed my gameplan rather well and it’s so wonderful to be within the semifinal of one other grand slam.

“Final yr, my tennis wasn’t dangerous, however I wasn’t there mentally. I performed with quite a lot of worry and nervousness – it’s exhausting to make the proper determination once you really feel anxious and hesitant, so I attempted to push myself within the offseason.

“Whenever you obtain nice success generally, you turn into conservative to attempt new issues, so this season I used to be like, ‘I’ll attempt new issues, put my head down and work exhausting.’”

For Pegula, who remains to be ready to achieve her first grand slam semifinal, there will probably be quite a bit to mull over within the aftermath of her defeat, particularly given the way in which her requirements dropped so dramatically within the second set.

“She bought off to a very sluggish begin,” Barbara Schett, a former skilled and present tennis skilled for Eurosport, advised CNN.

“Initially of the match it was Azarenka that was dominating so Pegula was the one reacting extra, however that’s not her recreation fashion.

“She likes to be the one accountable for the purpose and at present that wasn’t the case in any respect. I believed it was a very good comeback within the first set, when she bought to 5-4 she was again on serve, however then as soon as once more she was panicking, she didn’t just like the circumstances, she stored telling her coach: ‘I don’t know what to do.

“‘The balls are so sluggish, I really feel like I can’t hit with quite a lot of tempo.’ So she was extra targeted on herself and within the second set as effectively you possibly can see it in her physique language that she wasn’t feeling nice and I used to be considering, final yr she was enjoying in opposition to Ash Barty on the quarterfinals and she or he solely received two video games.

“Possibly that was at the back of her head as effectively, that she needed to do actually, rather well this yr and she or he simply bought overwhelmed or the strain really began to kick in.”

Azarenka, after all, is aware of what it takes to win a grand slam, having received twice earlier than in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013. Pegula, conversely, has by no means beforehand reached the semifinals of a slam and appeared nervous and overawed by the event.

Many anticipated Pegula, the world No. 3, to dominate along with her highly effective hitting, however she was barely capable of get a foothold within the match early on as Azarenka raced right into a 3-0 lead within the first set because of some booming, correct groundstrokes.

Pegula did finally get on the scoreboard with a gritty, hard-fought maintain of serve, saving 5 break factors in a recreation that lasted greater than 10 minutes.

Nevertheless, she quickly started to chop a annoyed determine on the court docket, seemingly attempting to play inside herself in an try to only maintain her pictures contained in the court docket. At one level, she appeared in the direction of her field and muttered beneath her breath, shrugging with confusion as she tried to seek out a solution to Azarenka’s early brilliance.

With Azarenka serving at 4-2 up, Pegula had a superb alternative to interrupt again, however the Belarusian held agency to stave off two break factors with a few unerring pictures to take care of her slender first set lead.

Nevertheless, with Azarenka serving for the primary set at 5-3, a mixture of nerves and much-improved hitting from Pegula lastly broke the 33-year-old for the primary time within the match to maintain the opening set alive.

Azarenka nullified Pegula's serve brilliantly throughout the match.

However any hopes that Pegula had of turning the set round have been shortly banished by Azarenka, who broke again instantly to take the primary set.

Except for the small serving blip, it was a chic opening set of tennis from Azarenka and paying homage to the shape that helped her win her first grand slam Down Underneath greater than a decade in the past.

Issues went from dangerous to worse for Pergula within the second set as Azarenka held after which broke serve to open up a 2-0 lead.

Pegula look perplexed after one more groundstroke went lengthy and this time started mouthing and gesticulating in the direction of her field with elevated frustration, hitting a ball into the court docket in anger.

Maybe the outburst was the stress aid that Pegula wanted as she shortly started hitting her pictures with extra energy and accuracy, breaking Azarenka again on the first time of asking.

Nevertheless, in a recreation that continued to ebb and circulate, Azarenka once more broke again immediately after which held serve to open up a commanding 4-1 lead and place one foot within the semifinals.

Azarenka has made a reputation as one of many higher returners within the ladies’s recreation and was thus far nullifying Pegula’s serve, a weapon which has given the American a lot pleasure in latest seasons.

'Vika' is into her second semifinal since 2020.

Pegula now appeared overwhelmed as Azarenka started to put on her down from the baseline; if Pegula had hoped her opponent’s stage would drop in some unspecified time in the future, she maybe realized at this second that it wasn’t going to occur.

She tried a few determined pictures in an try to combine issues up, however one particularly poor drop shot was bounced upon and dispatched with aplomb by Azarenka.

Azarenka then broke Pegula for the fourth consecutive recreation and with it the final little bit of her resolve to take a 5-1 lead after which promptly served out the match.

‘Vika’ joked in her post-match interview that she was desperate to get again residence to her son – who Azarenka admitted is extra into soccer than tennis – and her new canine.

If Azarenka continues to play as she did on Tuesday, then they’ll possible have to attend till subsequent week for mother to get residence.