19 January - 1 February 2015
Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.
Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.
Victoria Azarenka


Blink and you missed it. Victoria Azarenka's 6-1 6-0 demolition of Yvonne Meusburger to reach the fourth round on Saturday night was so fast that it was frightening, the defending champion taking just an hour to send her Austrian opponent fleeing into press. A lesson for those spectators who took their time getting to their seats, choosing sustenance instead, only to arrive to find it was all but over.

With Maria Sharapova's survival missions, Li Na's lucky escape and Serena's storming, Azarenka, the second seed, has been flying a little under the radar so far. But she reminded herself, everyone around her, and everyone watching that she has not been doing nothing in the weeks since the 2013 season concluded and 2014's began.

"It was just a good performance I think from me. You know, I felt like I started well and I kept that momentum throughout the match, and that's what I wanted to do today," Azarenka said.

"So I think sometimes you spend more energy trying to be in that zone, you know, to keep that focus, but I felt good."

The biggest takeaway from the 60-minute match was that Azarenka got 92 per cent of returns in play. And that Meusburger got 70 per cent of first serves in, but won just 27 per cent of them. Admittedly, against a more formidable server, a Serena for example, these figures might diminish. But nonetheless, it shows that Azarenka's biggest asset is getting on the ball, getting in play, and scrabbling around with it until she has won the point. Much like one Novak Djokovic, in fact.

The first set took just 37 minutes; the second a mere 23. That Meusburger's lone game came from breaking the Azarenka serve was an anomaly. That wrinkle aside, the two-time champion hardly set a foot out of step, firing 20 winners to five, winning 14 of 17 points at the net, and 29 of 45 from the back. RedFoo, sporting a shirt saying "Vika 7", was delighted.

"I think the beginning had quite a few long rallies, but I took advantage of that and I raised my level,"  Azarenka said.

"I'm quite happy with that. And that I could maintain that throughout the match, that was important for me.”

What's much more interesting to meander on is what comes next. Awaiting Azarenka in the fourth round is Sloane Stephens, in what will be a repeat of their semi-final here last year. Controversy hanging around it like heat on a hot day, the match was memorable for Azarenka's long injury break at a point when the American was ahead. The Belarusian won the match.

"It was a tough match. Obviously semis of a Grand Slam it was pretty intense," Stephens said when asked about it. “[But] last year has nothing to did with this year. It's a totally different year. A lot of things have happened.

"So, you know, I'm just looking forward to getting back on the court."

Azarenka's view is similar.

"We left it all last year here, and that's what is important for me, you know, is to play another match. I'm looking forward to that match," she said.

"She's a great player, and I like to play against great players. It's a great challenge for me to have. A tough fourth round, but that's what you get, you know, going further, second week in a Grand Slam."

Comparing the form of the two, especially Azarenka's today, it seems likely that last year's champion will win. But repeat performances can change things. It will be an interesting one.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015
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