Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sports

Azarenka latest favorite to fall in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka's 18-match winning streak at the Australian Open ended in an upset 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska early this morning, continuing the flow of stars tumbling out of the season's first major.

Fifth-seeded Radwanska ended her own streak of three quarterfinal defeats at the Australian Open with a stunning display of versatile shot-making that shocked and confused the big-hitting Azarenka.

Both defending champions are out in the quarterfinals. Novak Djokovic lost in five sets to Stan Wawrinka the previous night.

Djokovic went into the match with 28 consecutive wins since losing last year's U.S. Open final to Rafael Nadal, and 25 in a row at Melbourne Park since 2010.

But the figure that really mattered was 14: the consecutive matches in which Djokovic had beaten Wawrinka dating to 2007.

"Fourteen is enough," Wawrinka said.

Azarenka's defeat followed the fourth-round exits of top-ranked Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and leaves 2011 French Open champion Li Na as the only major winner remaining in the women's draw.

Radwanska next plays No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova, who won the last eight games in a one-hour, 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal rout of No. 11-seeded Simona Halep.

Li will play 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the other semifinal.

Radwanska played drop shots and slices from the baseline, setting up lobs and passing shots. She hit touch volleys with calm precision and instinctively anticipated Azarenka's shots.

She didn't fall into big-swinging rallies against the second-seeded Azarenka, mixing it up and saving the power for when she needed it.

"She was aggressive. She was making everything. She was guessing right," Azarenka said. "I was just playing a little bit too predictably."

Radwanska was safe on her serve, dropping just two games in the two-hour match while breaking Azarenka six times. She hadn't beaten Azarenka in their past seven matches and had won three of their previous 13.

"I said to myself one day I have to have one step forward and do the semifinal, and I'm so, so happy that I did it finally," Radwanska said of her first run to the semis of a major on hard courts. She reached the final at Wimbledon in 2012, becoming the first player from Poland to reach a major final in the Open Era, and the semifinals last year.

"I just had to play my best tennis, even better and play aggressive and go for every shot I could," Radwanska said.

Azarenka went down in a flurry of unforced errors, making 47 in three sets as she tried to push Radwanska around.

"I'm not happy … on the court I felt like I could have played a lot better," Azarenka said. "I can't take away what she's done. She played amazing."

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