Victoria Azarenka plays tennis lights out to see off Jessica Pegula.

Victoria Azarenka plays tennis lights out to see off Jessica Pegula.

Happy Victoria Azarenka

Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka ended a 10-year wait to return to the Australian Open semi-finals with a win over Jessica Pegula.

Azarenka won her Grand Slam singles title at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013 and has never advanced past the last eight since.

But the 33-year-old put in a fine performance to beat third seed Pegula 6-4 6-1 and will face Wimbledon champion Elena Rabakina in the last four.

“It hurts to hit her because I always want to do well,” he said in a court interview. But at the same time I know I have to play my best tennis.

“I knew from the first point that I had to bring it. We had a lot of lineups and if I wasn’t there she would take everything because I wanted to stay there, take chances.

“I take pride in executing my game plan well. To be in another Grand Slam semi-final is amazing.

Azarenka added: “Last year my tennis wasn’t bad but I wasn’t there mentally. I played with a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety. I have worked a lot on my thinking. It’s challenging myself to do things I’ve never done before.

Pegula reached the quarter-finals without dropping a set but failed to get past that stage again, suffering her fifth straight defeat, including three straight defeats in Melbourne.

The American was looking to serve after winning the first three games against 24th seed Azarenka and although Pegula broke her opponent’s serve for the opener, she was unable to deliver.

The second set went from bad to worse for Pegula as Azarenka cruised to victory after one hour and 36 minutes.

In the year Looking for her first singles win since October 2021, the Belarusian reached her first Grand Slam semi-final when she defeated Naomi Osaka in the 2020 US Open final.

Aryna Sabalenka is now the highest player remaining in the draw and the fifth seed will play Donna Vekic in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, while the winner of either Karolina Pliskova or Magda Lynette will face Saturday’s showpiece at Rod Laver Arena.

Read more: Elena Rybakina draws on Wimbledon title experience: ‘I can do it again’


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