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Azarenka returns to Australian Open quarters after 7-year wait

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VICTORIA AZARENKA — ALEXANDERJONESI

MELBOURNE — Former world number one Victoria Azarenka reached her first Austalian Open quarterfinal for seven years as she fended off China’s Zhu Lin 4-6 6-1 6-4 in the early hours of Monday.

Ms. Azarenka, twice a winner of the title in Melbourne, started slowly and lost the opening set but stormed through the second to take the fourth round match into a decider.

Neither player could hold serve in the third set but Ms. Azarenka’s greater experience finally pulled her through.

The Belarusian wobbled when serving for the match at 5-4 but hit back from 15-40 to complete the victory at 2.15am local time with an angled crosscourt backhand winner.

Ms. Azarenka, 33, will face third-seeded American Jessica Pegula for a place in the semifinals.

“I feel so relieved, it was complete pressure, lots of momentum shifts, there was everything in this match,” 24th seed Ms. Azarenka said on a sparsely-populated Rod Laver Arena.

“Happy I could handle everything and take my chances and went for it. I’ve had a couple of close matches this year that didn’t go my way so I’m really proud of myself.”

Looking ahead to her quarterfinal she said it would be a more familiar opponent, having known little about Zhu Lin.

“I’ve practiced a lot with Jess and I’m going to enjoy that one. If I do lose I would rather lose to Jess, but I’m going to give her hell!” — Reuters