Sluggish Azarenka into quarters
NEW YORK -- Judged against an average tennis player, Victoria Azarenka is doing absolutely fine at the US Open this year. The No. 2 seed reliably reached the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 13 Ana Ivanovic on Tuesday.
Judged by the higher standards that Azarenka has set, though, she isn't quite on her game. But after a match in which she hit just 21 winners to Ivanovic's 41 and allowed her opponent 13 break points, Azarenka wouldn't concede that her level of play left anything to be desired.
"I think it's pretty remarkable to walk off the court with a win," Azarenka said. "That's what's most pleasant about that. And the quality, if you play really well and lose the match, then I mean, it doesn't really matter the quality."
She has a point, and she has 24 or so hours to diagnose and possibly fix her issues before a quarterfinal match against unseeded Daniela Hantuchova at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday. Azarenka became the last woman to reach the quarterfinals, a day late due to rain that disrupted Monday's schedule.
Hantuchova had an extra day to rest and reached the quarters without having to play a single seeded player. On the surface, it might seem like an easy matchup for the higher seed, but Azarenka doesn't seem to have made much easy for herself this year at the US Open.
It's the second straight three-setter that Azarenka has played, as she also lost the first set of a third-round win over No. 26 Alize Cornet. Is Azarenka concerned about the slow starts?
"No," Azarenka said blithely. "I'm chill."
Still, she can't lose seven service games and expect to win.
"I think Victoria can play better than that, to be honest," her coach, Sam Sumyk, said. "But I'm Victoria's coach so maybe I'm not objective, and I can always find something that can be better."
Azarenka appeared to move poorly at times, and if it weren't for her first serve -- Ivanovic clearly struggled more with that element -- Azarenka may not have come through cleanly.
"I felt I could break her," said Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open winner, "but it was very frustrating that I was losing my serve constantly. That is what I felt was a big difference today."
Azarenka has shown signs of annoyance on the court. In her third-round win she yelled, "You suck" at a line judge, and after losing a point early to Ivanovic she bounced her racket and it appeared to graze her ankle. But rather than lose focus after these moments, Azarenka only seems to gather herself.
"I think so far she's showing a pretty good attitude," Sumyk said. "That's not easy to do because sometimes you can get mad or frustrated."
She expressed a hint of that frustration in her news conference when asked about musician Redfoo, who has often been in her player box at her matches but was missing Tuesday.
She said he was in Australia as a judge on the show "The X Factor."
"I'm not so happy about it, either," she said, adding an unconvincing, "I'm joking."
Redfoo has been such a supporter of Azarenka's tennis that he actually competed in a regional qualifier for the US Open. The entry merited a USTA press release in June, but his bid was halted in the first round, 6-2, 6-2, by a player named Scott Gray.
Azarenka has never won the US Open, although her final against Serena Williams last year was women's tennis at its best. Fresh off a win over Williams in Cincinnati heading into this year's Open, Azarenka has proven her hard-court skills, winning the Australian Open the past two years.
The draw is favorable here. Azarenka wouldn't meet a player seeded higher than No. 10 until the final, and she firmly believes she can win the tournament this year.
"If I didn't believe that," she said, smiling, "I wouldn't be here."