Victoria Azarenka rolled on at the Australian Open, booking a quarter-final meeting with Angelique Kerber courtesy of a straight-sets win over Barbora Strycova. The Belarusian two-time champion knocked Strycova out of the year's first grand slam for the third straight year thanks to a 6-2 6-4 victory on Rod Laver Arena on Monday.
Azarenka, the 14th seed in Melbourne, clinched the Brisbane International title in the lead-up and is yet to drop a set this year. She meets Kerber, who she thrashed in the final in Brisbane, in a last-eight clash in a bottom half of the draw that has opened right up following the exits of Simona Halep and Venus Williams among others.
Strycova, now 0-5 against Azarenka, tried to impose herself more than she often does, but her unforced errors were costly as she missed out on a second grand slam quarter-final appearance.
For Azarenka, she is into the last eight in Melbourne for a fifth time.
Strycova was steady early, and came from 0-40 down to hold in the third game, but her aggression – and errors – were her undoing as Azarenka broke for 3-2.
Azarenka has been broken just once at the tournament and lost no more than three games in a set this year, but the latter changed in the second set. She was challenged when serving at 4-3 before Strycova made her serve it out, and she had no trouble doing so.
Kerber eager for Azarenka scalp
Kerber hopes she can finally end her winless run against Victoria Azarenka when the pair meet in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Two-time grand slam champion Azarenka has won all six of the previous clashes between the duo, including thrashing the German 6-3 6-1 in the Brisbane International final earlier this month. The Belarusian will go into the last-eight encounter as favourite after a brilliant start to the year, during which she is yet to drop a set. But Kerber hopes her time has come against Azarenka after a 6-4 6-0 win over countrywoman Annika Beck saw her reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time.
"I've had tough matches against her in the past. The last one was in Brisbane in the finals. I never won against her right now, but that will be a challenge," she said. "I will be looking forward to when I play against her to really take my chances, take the next match.
"It's a new one, it starts from zero, and I know what's coming from her. I will try to be aggressive and try to go and win the match. She played very well from the first match here in Melbourne. I will try to get another chance in the next challenge against her, and we will see what happens then."
Kerber said her focus would be on improving her serve after being broken three times by Beck, while she also produced four double faults.
"I must serve better, because she's returning very well. Be more aggressive, play aggressive," she said. "Moving good and actually playing my game like I'm playing in practice and just focusing more on me and not on her game."
Azarenka relishing Kerber rematch
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is braced for another tough contest against Angelique Kerber as they prepare to lock horns again in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.
Azarenka defeated Kerber to claim the Brisbane International crown in the lead up to the Australian Open and she will have another opportunity to exert her dominance after winning through to the last eight with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Barbora Strycova on Monday.
Belarusian 14th seed Azarenka has won all six of her previous six meetings with Kerber, who accounted for countrywoman Annika Beck 6-4 6-0 on the same day.
Despite her perfect record, Azarenka is anticipating another difficult tussle against the German seventh seed.
"It's exciting. I always look forward to playing against her," Azarenka told reporters.
"She always gives me tough matches. I prepare myself for a very tough match because she's very solid, very consistent, and an amazing fighter.
"I have to play my best game to beat her, for sure."
Azarenka added: "She's just consistent. You have to really go out there and take it from her, because she's not going to give you anything, mistakes.
"You have to really focus and take control.
"The result of Brisbane or whatever in the past, it doesn't really matter to me.
"I need to focus myself for a tough match and, you know, quarter-finals of a grand slam. It's important for everybody."
Azarenka  bt Strycova 6-2 6-4
Azarenka - 0
Strycova - 2
Azarenka - 15/14
Strycova - 23/33
BREAK POINTS WON
Azarenka - 3/7
Strycova - 0/2
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Azarenka - 76
Strycova - 68
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Azarenka - 83/38
Strycova - 63/42
Azarenka - 65
Strycova - 48
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