Victoria Azarenka into 4th round at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Before Victoria Azarenka had a chance to analyze both players she might meet next, a question was posed to her son about the two-time Australian Open champion’s third-round performance.

Five-year-old Leo, wearing his sunglasses in the news conference room and sitting on his mother’s knee, responded succinctly: “Awesome!”

Thanks, kid.

Azarenka’s own highlights from her 6-0, 6-2 win over 15th-seeded Elina Svitolina included the “amount of aggressivity I could bring point after point, applying a lot of pressure, the consistency. The break points I faced, I played really strong.”

“Yeah, taking control of my end of the court,” she added. “I think that’s what I’m more happy about.”

She’ll next play French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who rallied from a set and a break down against No. 26-seeded Jelena Ostapenko to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and advance to the fourth round in singles at Melbourne Park for the first time.

The 24th-seeded Azarenka, who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013 and has been a U.S. Open finalist three times, is into the fourth round here for the first time since 2016 after extending her winning record to 5-0 against Svitolina.

She accumulated nearly twice as many winners, 17, as unforced errors, nine, and never faced a break point. Svitolina made mistake after mistake, 26 unforced errors in all.

Since a quarterfinal run in Australia in 2016, Azarenka lost first-round matches last year and in 2019, and missed the hard-court tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The 32-year-old former world No. 1 from Belarus is feeling comfortable right now, fulfilling the dual roles of player and mother in Melbourne.

Azarenka was asked if it was more demanding, distracting or relaxing to have her son with her on the tour.

“All of the above,” she said, laughing, as Krejcikova and Ostapenko were playing. “It’s definitely not a distraction, I will never say that. Being a parent is not easy. He’s full of personality – I don’t know where he gets it from!”

Leo flipped his tournament credential around on its lanyard as his mother responded to questions from within the room and online. He yawned at least once and blew air onto the microphone.

“I always feel privileged that I’m able to have him here,” Azarenka said. “These kind of moments are really priceless for me. To be able for me to share that with my son is pretty incredible.”

In other results on Day 5, fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari beat No. 28 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 6-1 to move into a fourth-round match against 21st seed Jessica Pegula of the U.S., who beat Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Paula Badosa advanced with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 win over Marta Kostyuk.

The night session later Friday featured two much-anticipated matchups that could lead to an even bigger one.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was to face Amanda Anisimova at Margaret Court Arena, while No. 1 Ash Barty was set to play Camila Giorgi at Rod Laver Arena.

The winners of those two matches will meet each other in a fourth-round contest that could have the feel of a Grand Slam final a week early if it’s Osaka vs. Barty.

Rafael Nadal was to continue his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title with a third-round match against No. 28 Karen Khachanov.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.