Vintage Victoria Azarenka downs Jessica Pegula to make Australian Open semis
Azarenka, the last woman to defend the title after her 2013 triumph, raced into a 3-0 led over American Pegula in the first set before the highest seed left in the women's draw finally held serve.
Victoria Azarenka showed glimpses of the form that took her to the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open titles with a vintage display to reach the semi-finals on Tuesday, while American Sebastian Korda's dreams of emulating his famous father ended in pain.
Azarenka earned a measure of redemption for being dumped out in the opening round by Jessica Pegula in 2021 to dismantle the in-form American third seed 6-4 6-1 and reach the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time in a decade.
"We had so many rallies and I wanted to try to stay there, take opportunities because she was going to take everything if I don't try to win myself and I'm very proud that I executed my game plan really well," said Azarenka.
The 33-year-old Belarusian said that it was "nerve-wracking" to compete in front of Australian great Rod Laver on the main showcourt named in his honour.
"I feel like you want to show your best tennis in front of the best and I hope I did that and you guys enjoyed watching me because I really tried my best," she added.
Korda also tried his best to continue playing against Karen Khachanov but threw in the towel in their quarter-final contest while trailing 7-6(5) 6-3 3-0 due to a wrist injury.
The retirement followed two medical timeouts and dashed the American's hopes of emulating his father Petr's 1998 Melbourne Park triumph.
Khachanov, who had also reached the last four of the 2022 U.S. Open, said it felt great to be back in a Grand Slam semi-final after reinventing himself.
"Obviously not the way you want to finish a match," said the 18th seed, who will meet either third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or unheralded Czech Jiri Lehecka for a place in the final.
"I think until a certain point, it was very competitive, very good battle.
"Sebastian beat one of my friends Daniil Medvedev in three sets and in Hubert Hurkacz in five sets I guess, he was playing great tennis.
"I'm feeling really good, to be honest, really happy with my level and how I compete and I'm looking forward to the semi-finals here in Australia the first time."
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina also booked her place in the Melbourne Park semi-finals for the first time, the Kazakh 22nd seed beating Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-4 in a match that was played under the roof after a rain shower halted play.
"I'm super happy to be in the semi-finals for the first time," said Rybakina. "Of course, I was nervous, particularly in the last game, but I'm happy I managed my emotions. I played really well today."
Having started her campaign on one of the outer courts at this year's championship, Rybakina was every bit the star on Rod Laver Arena with a dominant display in which she sent down 11 aces to quell 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko.
Rybakina will take on Azarenka next.This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.