Times have been tough for Victoria Azarenka for the past two seasons. Hampered by injury and a ranking that has fallen well out of the Top 10, she’s just now beginning to recover and regain the championship form that earned her two Australian Open titles just a couple years ago. And based on her performance against No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s third-round match, she just might be closer than we think to being back on top.
Despite the fact that Kerber threw everything she had at Azarenka, from deft drop shots to ruthless passing shots to unforgiving ground strokes, the Belarusian had an answer for each rally. And after nearly three hours of play, Azarenka asserted her presence with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win that proved she can still win the big matches.
Between Azarenka’s 51 winners and Kerber’s 46, the entire match was a back-and-forth roller coaster of momentum swings and clutch plays. It seemed that for every time Azarenka charged the net for a volley putaway (she won 37 of 51 at the net), Kerber answered with a passing shot and a finger wag on the following point. The energy in Arthur Ashe Stadium was electrifying, as the crowd got behind both players each time they celebrated a point with a “c’mon!” and a fist pump.
The match featured 12 breaks of serve combined and 26 break-point chances erased, as both women raised their game to play big on the important points. Not only did the crowd get a treat from this Saturday afternoon thriller, but the players enjoyed it just as much.
“Honestly, this is the most enjoyable moment you can have, to fight in such a great match,” Azarenka said. “I enjoy the hustle on court, running down every ball and getting the winners, it was such a fun match to play.”