Azarenka Survives Hampton Scare
Published January 19, 2013 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - For a time it looked like she was going to pull off the unthinkable, but in the end the challenge was too great - Jamie Hampton wowed the crowd on Rod Laver Arena with some very heavy hitting on a bright Saturday afternoon, pushing Victoria Azarenka to a third set and even going up a break in that third set, but the World No.1 hung on, won the match and moved on, 64 46 62.
Hampton had never beaten a Top 10 player but she has pushed them, in fact she has one very big claim to fame this year - she is the only player to hold a set point on Agnieszka Radwanska, doing so in their Auckland semifinal two weeks ago. Radwanska is 12-0 so far in 2013, and 24-0 in sets.
With a flurry of winners - 41 total, 27 of those off the forehand - Hampton pushed Azarenka hard, winning the second set and breaking for 2-1 in the third. But the American's nagging back injury started to bother her and the No.1 seed and defending champion closed fast, reeling off the last five games.
"I didn't really see her play before, but my coach had watched her and he said she didn't play like that in the other matches he saw," Azarenka said. "She went for everything there was today. I know the same feeling when you go out there with nothing to lose. You're so loose, you're free, and you feel like you can't miss the ball. I felt like it was her day out there today. She played an outstanding match.
"I think she surprised everybody a little bit today."
Hampton talked about the injury afterwards. "Going into the match I was fine. At about 4-2, 4-3, my back started hurting. I hurt my back last year at the French Open pretty badly. It's something I deal with day to day, and yeah, it was hurting. Normally when my back starts up, I start cramping.
"But I think I was lucky to get the opportunity to play on Rod Laver Arena again today, considering last year I got thumped pretty good. I put in a lot of hard work during the off-season."
And on the aforementioned match with Radwanska? "She's a really good tennis player," she said of the World No.4. "I think she's a lot of fun to watch. She plays good tennis. She understands you don't have to smack a thousand winners to win a match - you can let somebody beat themself."
"I've played both girls a couple of times already - actually, quite a long time ago, last year, and both have a very different style of game," Azarenka said. "Elena is playing some of the best tennis of her life, especially very confident after winning a title. And Roberta, I feel like she's also in the best shape of her life and playing well, and she's been showing consistent results throughout the last year.
"Fourth round of a Grand Slam, everybody wants to win and everybody is playing well."
Vesnina ended up beating Vinci in that match, 46 76(4) 64, even fighting off a match point down 64 54. The Russian has now won eight matches in a row, having gone 5-0 to win Hobart last week and 3-0 so far this week - she is in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the third time, having already done it here in 2006 (losing to Nadia Petrova) and at Wimbledon in 2009 (losing to Elena Dementieva).