US Open: Azarenka, Mertens reach last eight

US Open: Azarenka, Mertens reach last eight
Victoria Azarenka and Elise Mertens
New York, Sep 8 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 9/8/2020 9:53:21 AM IST

Victoria Azarenka had a huge smile on her face after reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final in more than four years by beating Czech Karolina Muchova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the fourth round of the US Open on Monday.

The former world number one had to rally from a set down on Louis Armstrong Stadium to set up a last eight date with Elise Mertens, her first at that stage of a major since she lost to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open.

The 31-year-old, twice a champion at Melbourne Park and twice a finalist at Flushing Meadows, has struggled to reach the heights she enjoyed before she took time out to have her son, Leo. Azarenka won her first title in four years at the Western & Southern Open in the lead up to the US Open, however, and will head into the quarter-finals with a 9-2 record this year.

“It’s been a while,” she told ESPN. “It’s a quite challenging time in the world right now so to have this opportunity to enjoy myself and do what I love to do with a smile on my face, I’m so grateful.”

Muchova, the 20th seed, broke Azarenka’s serve three times in the opening set but looked increasingly hampered by a problem with her upper left thigh as the unseeded Belarusian whipped through the second set to even up the contest. The Czech took a lengthy medical timeout and returned heavily strapped for a decider in which she showed glimpses of the all-court game that has marked her out as someone with a big future.

Azarenka moved her around the court as much as she could, however, and sealed the victory with a vintage forehand winner that just kissed the right-hand corner of the court. With Serena Williams and Tsvetana Pironkova already through, Azarenka is one of three mothers in the last eight.

“That’s remarkable, I’m so proud of the ladies,” Azarenka said. “I hope it’s inspiring others to keep going for their dreams and not just define themselves as mothers.”

Meanwhile, Sofia Kenin, the highest-seeded player left in the tournament and winner of the 2020 Australian Open, crashed out of the US Open after being beaten in straight sets by Belgian ace Elise Mertens. 

Second-seeded American was beaten 6-3, 6-3 within 1hr and 14 minutes. 

Kenin had not lost a game in the first three rounds, but she never got her service game together against Mertens.

Sofia Kenin got just 56 per cent of first-serve points as compared to 75 per cent for Mertens.

Mertens hit no double faults, whereas, the 21-year-old hit three. 

Mertens, ranked 18th in the world, smashed eight aces, while Kenin failed to muster any.

The Belgian will now face Belarus’ Azarenka in the Quarterfinals.



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