Australian Open

Azarenka dines on Meusburger

2014-01-18 11:38
Victoria Azarenka (AFP)

Melbourne - Defending champion Victoria Azarenka romped into the Australian Open fourth round on Saturday, dropping just one game during a straight-sets demolition of unseeded Yvonne Meusburger.

The second seeded Belarusian blasted past the Austrian 6-1, 6-0 in one hour exactly and will play American young gun Sloane Stephens for a place in the quarter-finals.

Azarenka, who beat Li Na to win last year's title, was always the hot favourite against the 30-year-old, who was playing a Grand Slam third round match for the first time and had never upset a top 10 opponent in her career.

She was out of her depth on Rod Laver Arena and Azarenka capitalised to set up an intriguing rematch with 13th seed Stephens, whom she controversially beat in last year's semi-finals.

"It's always good to get into the second of a tournament and I'm think I'm improving match by match," Azarenka said, adding that Stephens would be a major test.

"Sloane has improved so much and I will really have to bring my best game against her."

Azarenka is yet to drop a set and is building up a head of steam as the tournament progresses, cutting down on the error rate and improving her serve.

The second seed, who said after her previous win that she thrives on the pressure of being defending champion, got off on the right foot, immediately breaking the Austrian with some powerful groundstrokes.

Meusburger had a break point in the second game and was unlucky not to convert when her cross-court backhand touched the net cord and bounced just out.

She made no mistake when a second chance arose, forcing a backhand error from the second seed to draw level at 1-1. But it was all downhill from there.

The Austrian failed to hold her serve, and Azarenka then comfortably held before pressuring the veteran into a series of errors that allowed her to go 4-1 in front when Meusburger hoiked a forehand wide.

Under pressure, the Meusburger error count was rising and she was unable to find any winners as she was broken again to lose the set in 37 minutes.

The Austrian was deflated and a double fault allowed Azarenka to break immediately in the second, and there was no coming back as the champion applied the blowtorch to race through the set in just 23 minutes.

Azarenka is searching for a third consecutive Melbourne title, a feat last achieved by Martina Hingis between 1997-1999.

In the Open era only five women have managed three in a row - Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Hingis.

Azarenka drew criticism after last year's semi-final with Stephens when she suggested she took a medical time out at a crucial moment to calm down. She later said she was being bothered by a rib injury.

Results from the Australian Open on Saturday (x denotes seeding):

Men's singles

Third round

Stephane Robert (FRA) bt Martin Klizan (SVK) 6-0, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4

Roger Federer (SUI x6) bt Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-2, 6-2, 6-3

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x22) bt Milos Raonic (CAN x11) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (12/10)

Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) bt Benoit Paire (FRA x27) 6-2, 6-1, 6-4

Andy Murray (GBR x4) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP x26) 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-2

Women's singles

Third round

Simona Halep (ROM x11) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-1, 6-4

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x20) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP x16) 6-1, 6-0

Jelena Jankovic (SRB x8) bt Kurumi Nara (JPN) 6-4, 7-5

Maria Sharapova (RUS x3) bt Alize Cornet (FRA x25) 6-1, 7-6 (8/6)

Sloane Stephens (USA x13) bt Elina Svitolina (UKR) 7-5, 6-4

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x5) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS x29) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x10) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3

Victoria Azarenka (BLR x2) bt Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) 6-1, 6-0

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