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Inspired Krejcikova tops Azarenka to set quarter-final clash with Keys at Australian Open

Barbora Krejcikova waltzed past Victoria Azarenka to claim a spot in her first Australian Open quarter-final, where American Madison Keys will be waiting.

Barbora Krejcikova 2022 Australian Open Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 23, 2022 Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova in action during her fourth round match against Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka || 218680_0502

Australian Open 2022 | Draw Order of play | Round of 16

One of the biggest questions heading into the 2022 Australian Open was how well Barbora Krejcikova would handle the pressure and expectations of being a top player after rising from No 65 in the world to a year-end ranking of five in 2021. Her breakout season, which saw her claim a maiden Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros, was incredible on all counts, but how would the Czech rock up in a new season, with a new set of challenges and a target on her back?

If her first four matches at the Australian Open are any indication, she’ll be just fine.

Krejcikova waltzed past an off-kilter Victoria Azarenka on Day 7, notching a 6-2 6-2 triumph to book her first Australian Open quarter-final and a date with Madison Keys for a spot in the semis.

Krejcikova – I felt Vika was the favourite

Krejcikova may be a world-beating Grand Slam champion but she still seems to view herself as a Cinderella story in some way. She told the crowd after the win that she believed that two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka was the favourite in her mind. Perhaps the underdog mentality explains the manner in which Krejcikova is able to produce such smooth, calm strokes to complement her generally unflappable disposition.

“Today I felt that I’m not really the favourite. I felt that Vika was really the favourite for this match, so I was just really enjoying the match and just trying to play my best tennis – I was happy I was able to do that, and yeah, I’m in the quarter-finals,” she said, a giant smile beaming.

Krejcikova still can’t quite come to grips with the reality that she is the top-ranked Czech and one of the most formidable talents in the world, and seems genuinely surprised by the fact that she hasn’t yet experienced a letdown in form since winning the Roland-Garros singles title.

“To be true it’s really hard to believe it, that right now I’m on the top of Czech tennis because a couple of months of go I was outside the top-100, and I was dreaming about playing these matches on big stadiums, as Rod Laver Arena is. It’s very special, and to play the best players in the world – and now it’s happening. It’s just huge.”

Keys on Krejcikova – she makes tennis look easy

Asked about potentially facing the No 4 seed in the quarter-finals, Madison Keys gave a thoughtful – and accurate – description of what is so impressive about the Czech’s brand of tennis.

“I think obviously she’s really found her rhythm on the singles court along with on the doubles court,” she said. “I think she’s kind of just making tennis look easy. It seems like no matter what people are doing, she very quickly figures it out and has, like, another game plan to quickly implement. So that would be tough to play against.”

Barbora Krejcikova, Roland-Garros 2021
Barbora Krejcikova poses with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen after winning the Roland-Garros crown in 2021 (Panoramic)

Keys believes that Krejcikova’s dedication to the craft of doubles makes her a lethal presence at the net as well.

“I think the other thing about her is that she’s also an incredible doubles player,” Keys said. “She moves forward so naturally that I feel like if you give her the opportunity, she’s just on top of you all of a sudden, then she’s at the net. Obviously it’s not easy to pass her. That would obviously be an incredibly difficult matchup.”

The pair have never faced one another before. Krejcikova says she just hopes she faces Keys on a big court and that they put on a great show for the fans.

“I have never actually played her,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and I hope I am going to play on a big court again and I hope we are going to make a really good show for the fans and that they will enjoy it and be entertained in the best way.”

Azarenka – bothered by a neck injury

It was clear from the early going that Azarenka was not at 100 percent physically. She saw the trainer for what appeared to be a stiff neck after the first game of the second set and repeatedly sought therapy from the trainer at changeovers in the second set.

Azarenka seemed to be in a rush to finish points, and finished the match with 16 winners and 28 unforced errors. She managed a brief rally to level at 2-all from 2-0 down in the second set but the two-time Australian Open champion was plagued by errors and double-faults down the stretch as Krejcikova sauntered away with the final four games.

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