Pegula 1-3 Azarenka* (* denotes next server).
An audacious lob sets Azarenka on her way again and Pegula then nets to give her opponent another platform at 0-30. She’s looking a tad out of sorts but manages to point Azarenka around the court to win the ensuing point but a searing forehand winner from the back of the court delivers two more break points. Pegula saves them both with a couple of fine angled serves before coughing up another with a miscued return into the net. Pegula saves this one too with a forehand at the net. She gets an advantage before being pegged back to deuce. Azarenka unleashes a stunning forehand to gain another break point but Pegula again digs in. And eventually the American holds firm to get on the board.
Pegula* 0-3 Azarenka (* denotes next server).
Azarenka’s looking confident and forceful – these are so often the occasions when experience and muscle-memory come to the fore. Pegula’s a deft shotmaker though and a penetrating low forehand gets her to 15-all. Azarenka then gets lucky with a net cord before Pegula pulls it back to 30-all, dominating at the net. Some strong serving then secures the hold.
Pegula 0-2 Azarenka* (* denotes next server).
First blood to Azarenka as the Belarussian breaks. Pegula shows her class with a superb stretching crosscourt backhand that atones for a previous error to make it 15-15. But an overhit forehand gives Azarenka an opening at 15-30. It’s two break points when Pegula skews a forehand wide. She takes it straight away after dominating an absorbing rally.
Pegula* 0-1 Azarenka (* denotes next server).
A wrongfooting forehand winner and an instinctive smash at the net after a net cord get Azarenka under way before Pegula outsmarts Azarenka at the net after a fine rally. A booming Pegula forehand gets the American back to 30-30. Azarenka is made to work hard to win the next point but manages to do so when Pegula hits long. Azarenka secures the hold when Pegula nets. A competitive fiercely fought first game though.
The players are out on court knocking up, Pegula chasing her first slam semi-final appearance, Azarenka having reached eight.
Morning/evening everyone. The tournament’s properly thinning out now, granting Melbourne Park’s neighbours a chance for some rare kip. The evening session in the Rod Laver Arena begins with Jessica Pegula, the highest seed remaining at No 3, taking on the seasoned battler Victoria Azarenka, seeded 24 but impressing once more in this tournament. Tumaini had an interesting chat with Pegula before this year’s event began, in which she chatted about her up-and-down path to the top and being one of the more materially privileged players on the tour.
After that comes the men’s quarter-final between Stefanos Tsitsipas and the unseeded but promising Jiri Lehecka. Tsitsias is perhaps the strongest obstacle to another Novak Djokovic title but he was put through the wringer in an absorbing five-setter against Jannik Sinner on Sunday so it will be interesting to see how he’s bounced back from that.
Earlier, Karen Khachanov beat Sebastian Korda in the men’s quarter-finals, with the latter retiring injured in the third set at two sets down, and the Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina cruised past Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4. Here’s a brief PA Media take:
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina eased into the semi-finals of the Australian Open with a straight-sets victory over Jelena Ostapenko.
As expected between two of the biggest hitters on the women’s tour, this was first-strike tennis but Rybakina was the steadier in a 6-2 6-4 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
Both had caused upsets in the previous round, Rybakina defeating world number one Iga Swiatek and Ostapenko powering past Coco Gauff.
The Latvian, the French Open champion in 2017, was through to her first grand slam quarter-final for nearly five years, but produced too many errors to put any real pressure on Rybakina.