Victoria Azarenka has left the tennis world in awe as she turned back the clock and blitzed American favourite Jessica Pegula in her quarter-final clash in Melbourne. Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, was up against her good friend and the No.3 seed Pegula in a must-watch match.
However, the 33-year-old Belarusian came out on Rod Laver Arena with a mission as she returned ball after ball to leave Pegula searching for answers. At one stage Pegula showed a rare outburst of emotion.
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"I don't know what to do," Pegula said in the direction of her coach. "The ball's not going anywhere."
Azarenka had the opportunity to serve for the set at 5-3, but she was unable to convert. Pegula had an opportunity to climb back into the set, but Azarenka targeted the second serve and claimed the set after an incredibly high-level performance in the women's quarter-final.
Aussie great Alicia Molik claimed Azarenka's level of play was as if they had been: "Transported in a time machine...this could be 10 years ago."
Many couldn't believe the level of tennis from the 33-year-old who is the oldest remaining player in the draw. The two-time Australian Open champ received praise for her tenacity in the opening set.
Victoria Azarenka went on to gain a 2-0 lead in the second set with Pegula searching for answers. The Belarusian didn't look back and ran away with the match 6-4, 6-1 in her best performance in Melbourne for a number of years.
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The No.24 seed has now set-up a blockbuster match against the in-form Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. The Kazakhstan star defeated Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 earlier in the day.
"It hurts to beat her (Pegula) because I always want her to do well," Azarenka said.
"She's been playing amazing, very consistent and I knew from the first point I had to bring it.
"I just wanted to try to stay there, take opportunities because she was going to take everything if I don't try to win myself. I'm very proud that I executed my game plan really well.
"It's so amazing to be in the semi-final of another grand slam."Plenty has changed for Azarenka in the 10 years since her last semi-final in Melbourne - she is now 33 and a mother, but her aggressive baseline play was a reminder of her past triumphs.
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