Sunday, January 20, 2013 11:58 pm
Defending champ Azarenka advances to quarterfinals
By JOHN PYEAP Sports Writer
"It's getting there ... with every match you start building up for the top battles starting now," said Azarenka, who only needed 57 minutes to beat the 47th-ranked Vesnina. "It's really exciting to be again so far in the tournament. "
Azarenka started last season with a 26-match winning streak, including a lopsided victory over Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final.
She moved to No. 1 in the rankings with that win and has remained there for all but a few weeks.
But she needs to defend her Australian title to hold the top spot from French Open champion Sharapova or Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon, the London Olympics and U.S. Open titles.
Next up for Azarenka is a quarterfinal against Svetlana Kuznetsova, who entered the season's first major ranked No. 75 but has won titles at the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open.
Kuznetsova was given a time warning for taking too long during a changeover in her 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 win earlier Monday over former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, but said it didn't bother her.
As for Wozniacki, after twice failing to win her breakthrough major as the No. 1-ranked woman at the Australian Open, she is now expected to drop out of the top 10 after a fourth-round loss that follows back-to-back first-round exits at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Kuznetsova is moving in the other direction on her comeback from a right knee injury that ruled her out of the last U.S. Open, ending a run of contesting 40 consecutive majors. And she's looking forward to taking on Azarenka.
"The time I played in Indian Wells was totally a disaster. I got (beaten) very badly," she said. "But, I mean, she's tough; she's No. 1; I have nothing to lose; she has all the pressure.
"I know I got the game to give her some problems, and I will just do my best and just try to enjoy it."
Serena Williams was playing her fourth-round match against No. 14 Maria Kirilenko later Monday.
On the men's side, Frenchman Jeremy Chardy followed up his upset win over 2009 U.S. Open champion by ousting another seeded player in the fourth round, beating No. 21 Andreas Seppi 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on Monday.
Play on Day 7 ran into Day 8 overnight, when Novak Djokovic needed just over 5 hours to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in a fourth-round match Sunday night, on the same court where he needed 5:53 to beat Rafael Nadal in last year's final.
"I just had flashback of 2012," said Djokovic, who ripped off his shirt to celebrate again, like he did last year. "It was maybe 45 minutes less this match than the one 12 months ago, but still it was still as exciting. I tried to enjoy the moment and couldn't ask for more. What a match point ... unbelievable."
The win was Djokovic's 18th in a row at Melbourne Park after winning the past two Australian titles, and earned him a place in the quarterfinals of a 15th consecutive major.
Wawrinka said he would take more positives than negatives out of the match. He led 5-2 in the second set after outplaying Djokovic in the first.
"For sure, I think the best match I have ever played," Wawrinka said. "I fought like a dog like always. At 4-4 in the final set, I thought I might have won the match, but he was just better."
Djokovic will next play No. 5 Tomas Berdych, who beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (13).
Fourth-seeded David Ferrer advanced 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 over No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan to set up a quarterfinal against fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
Roger Federer plays Milos Raonic later Monday, and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray faces Gilles Simon.
They will have a tough time matching the spectacle of Sunday's late-night encounter, which also overshadowed Sharapova's accomplishment.
Sharapova advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kirsten Flipkens, and has lost just five games through four rounds. That's three fewer than the previous low mark at the Australian Open, held by Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.
She next plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who beat fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-4. Sharapova defeated Makarova in the quarterfinals here last year on her way to the final, which she lost in straight sets to Victoria Azarenka.
Li Na, who reached the final here in 2011 and won the French Open later that year, saved a set point in the tiebreaker before beating Julia Goerges 7-6 (6), 6-1. She'll play No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat No. 13 Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-4 for her 13th consecutive win.