Super-mum Azarenka eyes third Open crown

Victoria Azarenka has raced into the fourth round at the Australian Open.
Victoria Azarenka has raced into the fourth round at the Australian Open.

A decade after Kim Clijsters ruled, an inspired Victoria Azarenka is staking her own claim to be Melbourne Park's new tennis super-mum.

Azarenka upped her bid for a third Australian Open crown with a brutal third-round dispatch of Elina Svitolina as a batch of big names moved into the second week on Friday.

With five-year-old son Leo watching on, Azarenka blasted past Svitolina 6-0 6-2 in 67 minutes to be the first player through to the Open's last 16.

"I feel like I played really well tactically and that I really never let her into the game," Azarenka said.

Champion at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013 before taking time off to have Leo, Azarenka has serious hardcourt credentials as well as her fierce motivation to join the elite ranks of grand slam-winning mothers.

The Belarusian has also reached three US Open finals, most recently two years ago when she beat Serena Williams in New York before falling to Naomi Osaka in the title match.

Azarenka could potentially meet Osaka in next week's semi-finals and thwart the Japanese titleholder's own quest for a third Open triumph in Melbourne.

First she'll need to get past French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova on Sunday after the fourth-seeded Czech needed three sets to overcome Jelena Ostapenko 2-6 6-4 6-4.

There's no doubt, though, that Azarenka is on a mission to join all-time greats Margaret Court, fellow Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Clijsters as only the fourth mother to win a singles major.

After winning a bitter custody battle, Azarenka has brought Leo along for the ride.

He sat on Azarenka's knee during her post-match press conference, telling the world's tennis media how "awesome" his mum played in restricting the 15th-seeded Svitolina to just two games.

"He's not a distraction. I would never say that," Azarenka said.

"It's such a privilege. Not everyone has an opportunity to bring your kid to work and for my son to be inspired by what I do is priceless to me.

"I don't like to use the word role model. It creates too much heavy expectation for people.

"I just try to understand that I am an example in front of his eyes and I try to do the best that I can."

If she can get past Krejcikova, in-form eighth seed Paula Badosa or American Madison Keys will be awaiting Azarenka in her first Australian Open quarter-final in six years.

After leading by a set and a break against Marta Kostyuk, Badosa was made to sweat before pulling out a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win over the tenacious teenage talent.

"I was expecting a match like. As you saw, she's an insane player. I think she was playing top-five level in this match," Badosa after extending her unbeaten run in 2022 to eight matches.

"I gave it all today. I left everything on court and I'm super happy that I got this win."

Fifth seed Maria Sakkari enjoyed a much smoother passage to the last 16, downing Russian Veronika Kudermetova 6-4 6-1.

The Greek has yet to drop a set en route to the second week and faces American Jessica Pegula next after the 21st seed advanced with a 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 win over Spaniard Nuria Parrizas Diaz.

Osaka, seeded 13th this year, plays American Amanda Anisimova later on Friday, with top seed Barty facing Italian Camila Giorgi in the feature night match on Rod Laver Arena.

Australian Associated Press