MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka made it back to the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2016 by coming back to beat Zhu Lin 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in a match that began late Sunday night and ended at nearly 2:20 a.m. on Monday.
The third set began with six consecutive breaks of serve, before Zhu finally was the first to hold, taking a 4-3 lead.
But the 24th-seeded Azarenka grabbed the final three games. She held, then broke to go up 5-4 when Zhu put a forehand into the net.
Azarenka faced two break points while trying to serve for the victory at 5-4. She managed to save both and closed it out with a cross-court forehand winner after 2 hours, 40 minutes of play.
“I feel so relieved,” Azarenka said, mentioning the match’s constant pressure and momentum shifts.
The result ends a career-best run for the 87th-ranked Zhu, who had lost in the first or second round in each of her previous 13 Grand Slam appearances.
“I’ve never heard of her before,” Azarenka said. “I had to adjust on the go.”
The 33-year-old Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013.
She will face No. 3 Jessica Pegula on Tuesday for a place in the semifinals.
Pegula eliminated 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-2 on Sunday.
“Me and Jess, we’ve practiced together, we’ve played so many great matches together,” Azarenka said.
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