Azarenka in semifinals, to meet Rybakina

MELBOURNE, Jan 24: vintage display from Victoria Azarenka has fired the two-time Australian Open champion back into her first semifinal at Melbourne Park since lifting the trophy a decade ago on Rod Laver Arena.
The former world No.1 dictated play 6-4 6-1 to prevail past third seed Jessica Pegula under the lights in their quarterfinal on Tuesday night.First-strike tennis was on the menu, and it was Azarenka controlling the tempo.
Pegula connected with a highlight-reel backhand pass under pressure, however, the No.24 seed consolidated a 3-0 lead in just 12 minutes of clinical hitting.
The American then fended off six break points in an intriguing 10-minute hold to finely get on the scoreboard.
Despite Azarenka soaring 5-2 up, Pegula dug deep, stepping into rip on the return to erase two set points for 5-4.
A switch of momentum seemed on the cards, but Azarenka had other ideas.
She re-imposed herself with three games to secure the set and take another commanding 2-0 lead in the second.
The 33-year-old rubber-stamped her authority, sprinting onto a drop shot to clatter a backhand down the line. Anything the No.3 seed tried, Azarenka seemed a step ahead.
Having lifted the trophy twice as well as runner-up spots at the US Open (2012-13 and 2020), Azarenka will be gunning for the final. It’s all about a mental transformation.
Standing in her path in the last four is the firepower of Wimbledon champion Rybakina.
The Kazakh beat Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets earlier on Tuesday.
Korda out with injury
A rejuvenated Karen Khachanov will contest his second straight Grand Slam semifinal after taking charge early before Sebastian Korda’s retirement with a wrist injury at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Under a closed Rod Laver Arena roof, he repeated the feat when Korda called time on the match at 7-6(5) 6-3 3-0. “I think I kind of reinvented myself. I would say I always believe in myself but there are always ups and downs and sometimes when you have those great results it just shows you what you are capable of and then you start to believe more and more,”Khachanov said.
Having made the semifinals at the US Open last year, prior to this campaign, Khachanov had never passed the third round at Melbourne Park in six attempts.
He will have to overcome either Tsitsipas or Czech surprise Jiri Lehecka (PTI)

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