Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka were the clear favourites to reach the quarter-finals from the third quarter of the draw and while upsets have been aplenty in this Australian Open draw, the form book has held true. Kerber was first into the last eight with a 6-4 6-0 victory against fellow compatriot, Annika Beck. Kerber battled through a lengthy opening set that saw five of the games go to deuce and seven breaks of serve. Kerber served out the first set to 30 before sauntering through the second set. It was a big match for Kerber, dealing with the pressure of being the heavy favourite to win and also going for her first Australian Open quarter-final, but she came through unscathed.
Azarenka followed on court and had her toughest match of the year so far based on the scoreline… the Belarusian was still a straight sets winner, prevailing, 6-2 6-4 against Barbora Strycova in 86 minutes. The Czech player had a wonderful tournament, defeating two seeds in Caroline Garcia and Garbiñe Muguruza, and giving it her best shot against Azarenka. Azarenka finished the match with 15 winners to 14 unforced errors and has yet to drop more than four games in a set this year.
Head-to-head record: Azarenka leads Kerber, 6-0 in their head-to-head. While Kerber’s game style does play into Azarenka’s hands, they have had their fair share of crackers. I’ve written about them on many occasions before so check out my Brisbane final preview HERE. Their match in Brisbane began with heaps of promise; the first seven games was probably the best women’s tennis of the year so far. Kerber started strong, but her resistance faltered against a rapidly rising in form, Azarenka.
Analysis: All the form and records point to Azarenka in this one. I still have this nagging concern that the Belarusian has yet to be tested this year. I’m intrigued to see how her game holds up when faced with some real pressure. Kerber went away fast in the second set of the Brisbane final and it’s imperative she hangs in this one mentally if she is going to stand a chance of progressing. I’m curious about the comment in the tweet above where Kerber has implied she may try a new tactic against Azarenka. I quite like Kerber to get a set in this one but it would likely take one of the best performances of her entire career to stop Azarenka.
Prediction: Azarenka d. Kerber in 3 sets