Two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, the No 24 seed from Belarus, cruised past Argentine Nadia Podoroska, 6-1 6-0, in just 57 minutes to move into the 3rd-round at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.
I usually set myself some goals that I want to achieve, and most of the time they are result-oriented. I think it’s something that I try not to do so much and really take it step-by-step because it’s so quick to go to a finish line to think about it and your mind is racing there. So something that I want to try to break in little steps, and I have been working on that, and I think it helps me. Victoria Azarenka
Ranked No 24, Azarenka will face American Madison Keys, the No 10 seed, next, who was a 6-3 6-2 winner over China’s Wang Xinyu, earlier in the day.
The 33-year-old Belarusian took out fellow Aussie Open champion Sofia Kenin from the USA, 6-4 7-6 (3) on Monday.
Podoroska, ranked 191, beat French lucky loser Leolia Jeanjean, 6-0 6-3, in the previous round.
Azarenka is the only former champion remaining in the women’s draw at Melbourne Park this year, which is her 15th appearance at the Australian Open where she made her debut back in 2007.
Despite being a veteran on the tour, the Belarusian has decided to take a new approach to the sport in the hope that it will boost her results.
She started the season by playing both WTA events in Adelaide, where she reached the quarter-finals in week one before suffering a 1st-round loss to Veronika Kudermetova in week two.
“I usually set myself some goals that I want to achieve, and most of the time they are result-oriented,” she explains. “I think it’s something that I try not to do so much and really take it step-by-step because it’s so quick to go to a finish line to think about it and your mind is racing there.
“So something that I want to try to break in little steps, and I have been working on that, and I think it helps me.”
Azarenka produced a ruthless performance against Podoroska, and committed just 7 unforced errors compared to Argentine’s 28.
The Argentine held serve in the opening game of the match, only for the Belarusian to race through 12 games on the trot.
Azarenka went from strength to strength as she sped towards the finishing line, dropping just 7 points in the second set to set up her 3rd-round meeting with Keys, against whom she leads 3-0, including a 6-4 6-7(4) 6-1 victory in the 3rd-round of Guadalajara last October.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina needed just 58 minutes to race past Kaja Juvan from Slovenia, 6-2 6-1, and book her place in the 3rd-round at Melbourne Park for the second time.
Rybakina had not played the Slovenian since their junior days, when their only meeting had been a 3-6 6-2 6-3 win for Juvan on the clay of Milan.
On this occasion, though, Rybakina did not face a break point and dropped only 3 points behind her first serve.
The Russian-born Kazakh last made the 3rd-round in Melbourne on her 2020 debut, falling to then-No 1 Ash Barty.
Rybakina will bid to make the second week of a major for the 4th time against Non13 seed Danielle Collins, after the American edged past 2021 semi-finalist Karolina Muchova from the Czech Republic, 6-7 (1) 6-1 7-6[10-6] after an intense 2 hours and 55 minutes of play.
Elsewhere, the 2nd-round of matches postponed on Day 2 because of rainy were finally completed, with the only casualties being Daria Kasatkina, the 8th seed from Russia, who fell out on Court 8 in 58 minutes to compatriot Varvara Gracheva, 6-1 6-1, while Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, the 14th seed, was outgunned by Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz, 7-6(11) 6-2, after a 2 hour and 4 minute contest.
Meanwhile, Poland’s Magda Linette needed 85 minutes to beat Egypt’s Mayar Sherif, 7-5 6-1.
It means the 26-year-old from Cairo, ranked 52 in the world, failed to match her previous best performance at Melbourne Park, where she reached the 2nd-round in 2021, which leaves Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur as Africa’s only player left in singles contention.
The Tunisian, seeded No 2, continues her campaign with a 2nd-round match against the Czech Republic’s World No 78 Marketa Vondrousova after the Czech beat American Alison Riske-Amritraj, ranked 41, 5-7 6-1 6-4, in an hour and 59 minutes.
Elsewhere, 27th-seeded Romanian, Irina-Camelia Begu, was taken the distance by American Elisabeth Mandlik, a Lucky Loser who is the daughter of four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, winning through 3-6 7-6(1) 6-2, while last week’s Adelaide International 2 winner, Lauren Davis from the USA took out Danka Kovinic from Montenegro, 1-6 7-5 6-1, and compatriot Claire Liu defeated fellow-American Madison Brengle, 6-3 6-4.