Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka turned back the clock to crush former world number four Elina Svitolina 6-0, 6-2 in a blistering display on Friday.
The 32-year-old was in ruthless form as she blasted the 15th seed off court in just 67 minutes to march into the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
Her dominant win set up a clash with either world number four and current French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova or 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko for place in the quarter-finals.
“I felt like I played really well tactically and not really let her into the game,” she said.
“She’s a great defender, she’s a great competitor so I had to try and stay in top of her as much as possible and kind of not let her breathe in a way.”
Azarenka, seeded 24, won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and she showed against Svitolina that she could again threaten this year.
Under hot sun on Rod Laver Arena, she came flying out of the blocks, breaking the Ukrainian in the first game and never looked back, forcing a slew of unforced errors from her opponent.
Svitolina, who made the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2018 and 2019, recovered somewhat in the second set and saved five match points, but it was too little too late.
Fourth seed Krejcikova survives scare to set up Azarenka clash
French Open champion and world number four Barbora Krejcikova survived a scare in a gritty comeback win against Jelena Ostapenko.
The Czech fourth seed was one of the standout players of 2021, winning three titles as she soared 60 places up the rankings.
Her expectations were high coming into the opening Grand Slam of the year, but she was in deep trouble at 2-6, 1-3 down to the 2017 Roland Garros winner before fighting back to clinch the match on Rod Laver Arena 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
It set up an attractive fourth-round clash with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who swept past Elina Svitolina for the loss of just two games.
“Today’s match was really tough, difficult, I had to really dig deep to get this win,” said Krejcikova, who has won the last three Australian Open mixed doubles titles.
“I was just fighting. I felt I found the fighting spirit in me and as was just going for every ball. I was just telling myself ‘just keep going, you want to stay here’.”
Krejcikova beat Ostapenko last year in Dubai, the tournament that truly began her singles ascent, but it was the Latvian 26th seed who started strongly in Melbourne, getting an early break to take a 4-1 lead on a scorching day.
She outpaced the Czech in winners and made far fewer unforced errors to take the set and looked on course for a big scalp after breaking Krejcikova in the second set for a 3-1 lead.
But the Czech broke back twice to take the match into a decider, where her first serve percentage improved and error count diminished as she broke Ostapenko early to set up the win.