NEW YORK, NY, USA - Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka is back into the second week at the US Open for the first time since 2015 after unraveling the rising Iga Swiatek in straight sets.
Azarenka’s dominant return to form continued on Saturday evening with a commanding display against Swiatek on Louis Armstrong Stadium, raining down 25 winners and four winners to win 6-4, 6-2 after just over an hour and a half.
Coming into the New York bubble a few weeks ago, Azarenka was flying under the radar as she was searching for her first match win in a year. Everything quickly changed as Azarenka finally got going at the Western & Southern Open, finishing the week with a Premier 5 title.
Azarenka kept the momentum going at the US Open, dropping just three games in her opening match against Barbara Haas, and claiming sweet revenge over fellow Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, the No.5 seed, with a statement 6-1, 6-3 victory.
“I feel like sometimes this quick turnaround can work in your favor,” Azarenka said of playing Cincy and the US Open back-to-back. “I feel like a quick turnaround of this tournament being in one place, it's a pretty good advantage I would say for me. I'm playing a lot of matches, kind of getting better and better from one match to another.
“So I've been really happy that I've been able to play so many matches because that's where I feel like I can progress the most. I practiced a lot. I worked a lot on my game. But really to bring it up, I needed to play a lot of matches.
“This run, like continuous run, has been really good for me.”
Azarenka had a fight on her hands from the start against Swiatek, an on-the-rise Polish teenager who has reached the fourth round at the Australian Open and French Open previously.
She had to recover from an early 0-2 deficit in the first set against Swiatek, but a marathon effort from Azarenka a few games later set the tone for the match, with the 2012 and 2013 finalist breaking through on a marathon, 10-minute fourth game before winning six of the next eight games to take the opening set.
In the second, Swiatek continued to apply the pressure on Azarenka as she covered the court and targeted the Belarusian’s vulnerable second serves. The strategy kept Azarenka from running away with it, as Swiatek traded breaks with her opponent twice to start the set. But Azarenka was in her rhythm, and reeled off the last three games in a row to book her spot into the fourth round.
“I want to say problem solving, I would rather say finding right answers because she came out playing incredible, like winners coming from all angles, from all sides,” Azarenka explained.
“I've never played against her. I haven't really seen much of her play... I was really surprised but in a really good way of how she plays. I think she's super talented. She has a beautiful game, very smart. She has unique movement of sliding and getting into that position. She can mix up her serve.
“She's only 19, so I really hope she's going to turn up her game. But I was really pleased with her attitude on the court, trying to find solutions, and very positive. I'm very impressed by her game.”
Back into the fourth round, Azarenka will take on No.20 seed Karolina Muchova in her next match. The Czech survived a mid-match letdown and edged through in three sets to defeat Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(7) earlier in the day to advance.