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Victoria Azarenka tops Jelena Ostapenko at Australian Open

Victoria Azarenka tops Jelena Ostapenko at Australian Open


MELBOURNE, Australia — Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka took out 11th-ranked Jelena Ostapenko 6-1, 7-5 to make the last 16 for the seventh time Saturday at the Australian Open.

“I like a challenge,” Azarenka said. “I really think you can’t run away, you have to face it. It’s scary, it’s difficult, but it’s something you want to acknowledge and go through.”

Azarenka’s next opponent will be Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska, who equaled her best Grand Slam performance with a 6-2, 2-6 6-1 win over 27th-ranked Emma Navarro.

Yastremska was coming off first-round exits in her previous seven Grand Slam appearances and hadn’t been to the second week of a major since reaching the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2019.

“I felt pretty nervous,” said Yastremska, who hit 36 winners. “In the second set I felt a little bit of pain in my neck and thought I might have to crack it but didn’t want to do it myself.

“I told myself just don’t be too focused on your neck in the third set because it really takes my attention away. I just told myself to enjoy.”

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion and a runner-up at Roland Garros the following year, lost 6-7 (8), 6-1, 6-4 to Anna Kalinskaya in a 2-hour, 45-minute match on Kia Arena.

No. 26 Jasmine Paolini reached the fourth round of a major for the first time with a 7-6 (1), 6-4 win over Anna Blinkova, who had knocked out No. 3 Elena Rybakina in the previous round.

In the opener on Rod Laver Arena, Zheng Qinwen edged fellow Chinese player Wang Yafan 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (8) in a match tiebreaker to reach the fourth round in Australia for the first time. The 12th-seeded Zheng made it to the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year.

The Zheng-Wang match lasted 2:40. Zheng had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third but was unable to convert, and needed two match points to clinch it in the tiebreaker.

Wang eventually netted a tough backhand volley to end a 25-shot rally, the longest of the match, and the pair shook hands above the net.

“That was really difficult tiebreaker. We gave our best,” Zheng said, thanking Wang and saying it was an honor to for their match to be on the main court at Melbourne Park. “She never gives up. She always gets the ball back. I felt a lot of pressure in this match.”

Zheng will next play Oceane Dodin, who beat Clara Burel 6-2, 6-4 in a match between two French women.

Zheng said she was motivated by watching Li Na win the Australian Open title in…

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