Darkhorse title contender Victoria Azarenka continued her march through the Australian Open field on Monday, taking down unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova 6-2, 6-4 to book a quarterfinal meeting with No. 7 seed Angie Kerber.
“Maybe next year, we’ll play in the quarters!” Azarenka laughed on-court after the match. This year Azarenka beat Strycova in the fourth round after meeting in Melbourne in the third round in 2015 and the second round in 2014.
Strycova played big, hitting eight more winners than Azarenka over the match, but was undone by 33 unforced errors.
“She’s such a tough opponent, and I’m just so happy that I went through,” Azarenka said. “I played smart, aggressively, took my opportunities and I really kept my composure.”
Azarenka had her own question when being interviewed on court after the match — had her favorite Denver Broncos beat the New England in the NFL playoffs?
“Yes!” she said. “I was so nervous the whole morning. I didn’t watch because I didn’t want to know the results. I’m a crazy sports fanatic so I understand you guys.”
Azarenka will take a 6-0 career head-to-head lead into her quarterfinal match against Kerber, who she beat in the Brisbane final earlier this month. Kerber saw off German Annika Beck in ruthless fashion 6-4, 6-0.
“We always have such amazing battles,” Azarenka said. “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.”
The night ended in theatrics past midnight in Melbourne as No. 15-seeded American Madison Keys lost in tears, attempting to fight through the pain of a hip/leg injury but eventually falling to Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
When asked by the media how she felt after the match, Shuai said, “Tired.”
“It’s so tough to play against someone injury because, yeah, when I’m saw her like feel more pain,” said the qualifier, who added she almost quit the game in frustration to open a coffee bar. “You know, so tough. Maybe two point you feeling like cannot play, and then next three balls, pong, pong, pong, make two ace, one winner. So, so tough. You don’t know what’s happen. And also last year this happen many times. I’m almost win the match. I lost. I lost the concentrate. But this time I think I try to concentrate. So I’m happy I win the match.”
Shuai’s quarterfinal will be an all-unseeded affair when she meets Brit Johanna Konta, who outlasted No. 21 Ekaterina Makarova 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.
“Oh my God, it’s finished,” Konta said in her on-court interview after becoming the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 32 years. “I’m just incredibly happy and humbled with the way I competed today. That’s the thing I’m most happy about. The fact that it is the Australian Open and it was the fourth round, that’s pretty cool. I’m just really happy with how I was able to handle things and to keep trekking on.”
Konta and Shuai are 1-1 in their career head-to-head, but have not faced each other since 2013.
Quarterfinal matches on Tuesday in Melbourne will be (4) Agnieszka Radwanska vs. (10) Carla Suarez Navarro, and the blockbuster (1) Serena Williams vs. (5) Maria Sharapova.
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