Jessica Pegula crashes out of Australian Open as Victoria Azarenka cruises into semis
Victoria Azarenka produced a brilliant display of tennis to dispatch world number 3 Jessica Pegula and Australian Open The semi-finals
The two-time Australian Open champion, now ranked 24th in the world, fought back to beat Pegula, one of the most consistent players on the women’s tour over the past two seasons and one of the remaining favourites, 6-4, 6-1. Roll back the years. Just one hour and 37 minutes.
It marks Azarenka’s best performance in Melbourne since she won 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 because I always want her to do well,” Azarenka said in a post-match interview. “But I know I need to play my best tennis because she’s been so consistent. We had a lot of rallies … I had to hang in there and take chances.
“I’m very proud that I executed my game plan really well and to reach the semi-finals of another Grand Slam is amazing.
“Last year, my tennis wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t there mentally. I played with a lot of fear and anxiety — it’s hard to make the right decision when you’re feeling anxious and hesitant, so I tried to push myself in the offseason.
“When you have great success sometimes, you become conservative about trying new things, so this season I was like, ‘I’m going to try new things, keep my head down and work hard. Will do.'”
For Pegula, who is still waiting to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final, there will be a lot to think about after her loss, especially with her standards dropping so dramatically in the second set.
“He got off to a really slow start,” former Eurosport pro and current tennis expert Barbara Shett told CNN.
“At the beginning of the match it was Azarenka who was dominating so Pegula reacted more, but that’s not her style of play.
“She likes to be the one in control of the point and that wasn’t the case today at all. I thought it was a good comeback in the first set, when she got to 5-4 she got back on serve, but then once again she panicked, she didn’t like the situation, she tells her coach. Rahi: ‘I don’t know what to do.
“‘The balls are so slow, I don’t think I can hit very fast.’ So she was focusing more on herself and even in the second set you could see in her body language that she wasn’t feeling very well and I was thinking, last year she beat Ash Barty in the quarter finals. was playing against and won only two games.
“Maybe it was in the back of her head too, that she wanted to do really, really well this year and she just got overwhelmed or the pressure really started to set in.”
Azarenka, of course, knows what it takes to win a Grand Slam, having won twice before in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013. Pegula, by contrast, has never reached the semifinals of a Slam before and is nervous and nervous about the occasion.
Many expected world No. 3 Pegula to dominate with her powerful hitting, but she barely managed to gain a foothold early in the match as Azarenka raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set. Groundstroke
Pegula finally got on the scoreboard with a hard, hard-fought serve, saving five break points in a game that lasted more than 10 minutes.
However, she soon began to cut a frustrated figure on the court, seemingly trying to outplay herself in an effort to keep her shots on the court. At one point, she looked down at her box and mumbled under her breath, shaking with confusion, as she tried to find a response to Azarenka’s initial glare.
With Azarenka leading 4-2, Pegula had a great chance to break back, but the Belarusian held strong to fend off two break points with two unstoppable shots to maintain her narrow first set lead.
However, with Azarenka serving at 5-3 for the first set, a combination of nerves and Pegula’s much-improved hitting eventually broke the 33-year-old to hold the opening set for the first time in the match.
But any hopes of Pegula turning the set around were soon dashed by Azarenka, who stormed back to take the first set.
Apart from the short serving blip, it was a stunning opening set of tennis from Azarenka and reminiscent of the form that helped her win her first Grand Slam Down Under more than a decade ago.
Things went from bad to worse for Pergula in the second set as Azarenka broke serve to open up a 2-0 lead.
After another groundstroke went long Pegula looked confused and this time started facing and gesturing towards his box with increasing frustration, this time kicking a ball into the court in anger.
Perhaps the anger was the stress relief Pegula needed as she soon began hitting her shots with more power and accuracy, breaking Azarenka back for the first time of asking.
However, in a game that continued to grow, Azarenka again broke back in straight sets and then held serve to open up a commanding 4-1 lead and a foot in the semi-finals.
Azarenka has made a name for herself as one of the better returners in the women’s game and until now was nullifying Pegula’s serve, a weapon that has given the American so much joy in recent seasons.
Pegula now looked beaten as Azarenka began to wear her down the baseline; If Pegula expected his opponent’s level to drop at some point, he probably realized at this point that it wasn’t going to happen.
She attempted some frantic shots in an attempt to mix things up, but a particularly poor drop shot bounced and was superbly dispatched by Azarenka.
Azarenka then broke Pegula for the fourth game in a row and with it the last of her resolve to take a 5-1 lead and then promptly serve out the match.
‘Vika’ joked in her post-match interview that she was looking forward to getting back home to her son – who Azarenka admits is more into soccer than tennis – and her new dog.
If Azarenka continues to play like she did on Tuesday, she will likely have to wait until next week to come home to mom.