ROME, Italy -- Victoria Azarenka staked a claim as the hardest-working woman in tennis at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, playing three matches on Friday -- and winning two of them to reach the final four of the doubles draw.
The former World No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion started her day involved in a three-set tussle in the singles quarterfinals against No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova. Azarenka came back from 1-4 down to take the first set in a tiebreak, but Pliskova ultimately powered through to the victory, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2.
But the Belarusian came back with a vengeance on the doubles court, as she teamed with Australia's Ashleigh Barty to collect two straight-set victories in the span of less than four hours to reach the semifinals.
Not too long after her singles match, Azarenka hit the court with Barty and upset the No.5-seeded team of Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova, 6-4, 6-3. Azarenka and Barty eased to victory over Hsieh and Strycova in 74 minutes, coming back from an early break down in both sets.
Just over an hour later, Azarenka and Barty came back out for their doubles quarterfinal against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Lesia Tsurenko, and it was the Belarusian/Australian tandem who came out on top again, winning 6-2, 6-4 in 66 minutes.
After taking a swift opening set over Sasnovich/Tsurenko, Azarenka and Barty needed to come back from a break down for the third time in their four sets of the day. Azarenka's backhand pulled her team level at 3-3, but she dropped serve in the next game after a superb Tsurenko volley on break point.
But it was Azarenka's turn to break with a volley in the next game, as she steered her team back to 4-4. Barty held serve with relative ease for 5-4, then strong net play by the Australian and her partner quickly brought them to triple match point in the following game. Sasnovich hit a winning volley to save the first match point, but plopped a volley into the net on the second, ending the encounter.
There will be very little rest for the weary, as Azarenka and Barty will come back on Saturday to square off in the doubles semifinals against the No.1 doubles team in the world, Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. Azarenka and Barty, however, can take solace in the fact that they claimed a win over the No.1-seeded Czechs en route to the Miami Open semifinals in March.
The other doubles semifinal in Rome pits the No.8 seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs against the 7th-seeded Chan sisters, Hao-Ching and Latisha.