McHale Grinds It Out, Azarenka Rolls On
Published February 16, 2012 12:00
DOHA, Qatar - Victoria Azarenka went 12-0 in Australia this year, a streak that took her to No.1 in the world. Now she has improved that to 14-0 with two comfortable wins at the Qatar Total Open in Doha, beating Mona Barthel in her first match, 61 60, and Simona Halep in her second match, 63 61.
It seems like Azarenka's drive is unchanged. Is it?
"If I was looking for more holidays, trust me, I wouldn't be here," Azarenka said. "I was excited to go out there and finally play again, because it has been a little while - it seems like it was just yesterday, but it has been over two weeks. I was really looking forward to playing again and I'm excited about my next one."
Of course, the status of world's best female player doesn't come without its perks. After the Australian Open, the Belarusian trailblazer blazed her trail to Los Angeles for some very special events and media appearances.
"I didn't really get too much time to enjoy the moment. I had to leave the next day, and the next day I already had to do a lot of things. It was really fun for me to go and watch the men's final, but it was so hot I couldn't sit any longer!
"I went to LA for a few days. I went to see the Lakers play - Kobe Bryant is one of my favorite basketball players. That was really, really fun. I also attended the Ellen Show. She's one of my favorite TV anchors. That was really fun too.
"My mom came, so it was great to see her and spend some time with her."
Awaiting the No.1-seeded Azarenka in the quarterfinals is Yanina Wickmayer, who broke serve seven times to beat Ksenia Pervak, 64 60. "We were both struggling on serve, but in the second set I tried to be very concentrated on my serve and put pressure on hers," Wickmayer said. "It was a bit windy today and not easy to serve - maybe that's why our percentages were a little low. But it's nice to start matches later in the day, when the conditions are generally great."
Azarenka and Wickmayer will be playing for the first time. Wickmayer is 0-3 against reigning No.1s, losing to Caroline Wozniacki three times last year.
The other quarterfinal on the top half of the draw sees No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska face Christina McHale. They both had tough third rounds - Radwanska fought off double set point down 5-4 in the first set to get past American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, 75 61, while McHale rallied from a set and a break down and eventually outlasted Shahar Peer, 46 63 64.
"Varvara started very well today. I was really in trouble at the end of the first set," Radwanska said. "When it was 5-4, 40-15 for her, I was thinking I lost the set already and that we would just keep playing. But when you're on the court it doesn't matter what score it is, you just fight until the end. I did a few good shots and won that game, and then after that felt more and more confident.
"It's always tough to come back, especially with her lefty serve being so tough to break. I'm happy I came back and closed this match in two sets."
Radwanska beat McHale easily in their only previous meeting, but McHale does have three Top 10 wins (one retirement win over Azarenka, plus straight set wins over Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli last summer).