Victoria Azarenka reaches quarter-final taking over Barbora Strycova in Australia Open 2016

Melbourne: Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka had her toughest match of the Australian Open tennis tournament thus far but took out Barbora Strycova 6-2, 6-4, to reach the quarter-finals here on Monday. Azarenka faced the Czech Strycova for a third straight year in Melbourne – the second round in 2014, and the third round in 2015. “Maybe next year, we’ll play in the quarters!” Azarenka joked after winning their fourth round meeting at the Rod Laver Arena. Strycova stretched the two-time Australian Open champion over two sets, hitting 23 winners to Azarenka’s 15, but was undone by 33 unforced errors and an inability to convert either of the two break points she engineered.

“She’s such a tough opponent, and I’m just so happy that I went through. I played smart, aggressively, took my opportunities and I really kept my composure.” Up next for Azarenka is Angelique Kerber, against whom she has a perfect 6-0 head-to-head record, including a two-set win in the final of the Brisbane International three weeks ago. “I’m looking forward to that; we always have such amazing battles. She’s such a fighter and an amazing person off the court, as well. I just want to make sure we show some good tennis, enjoy myself and do my best. I’m sure she’s going to do the same,” Azarenka said.

She might be a two-time champion but Victoria Azarenka is pointedly uninterested in talking about her previous Australian Open success. It’s a fair response, given the toe, foot, ankle, back and knee ailments that have troubled the world No.16 since then. Time off court meant a dip in ranking and rebuilding inevitably tested motivation too. The Vika of 2016 is a far different player to the one who claimed victories at Melbourne in 2012 and 2013.