Victoria Azarenka compared her bid for a third Australian Open title to climbing a ladder on Friday — now she needs to make sure she does not fall off.
The 32-year-old turned back the clock to crush former world number four Elina Svitolina 6-0, 6-2 in a blistering display on Rod Laver Arena to march into the fourth round.
Her dominant win set up a clash with world number four and French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova for place in the quarter-finals after the Czech recovered from a set down to overpower 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko.
Between 2009 and 2016, Azarenka reached at least the fourth round in Melbourne for eight consecutive years, peaking with her two titles in 2012 and 2013.
After taking time away to have a baby, this year marks her first trip so far since, but the 24th seed is not getting ahead of herself.
“I think that kind of mentality, to stay in the present, continue to just do what I can in the moment, that’s been helping me more rather than kind of comparing (to the past),” said the Belarusian, who had her son Leo by her side in her post-match press conference.
“I think that’s really what I’m trying to say is that ladder I want to climb step by step.
“I think the danger for me is to try to skip a few steps. I think that is something I’m actually learning not to do. That’s been helpful.”
Under hot sun in Melbourne she came flying out of the blocks, breaking the Ukrainian Svitolina in the first game and never looking back, forcing a slew of unforced errors from her opponent.
Svitolina, who made the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2018 and 2019, recovered somewhat in the second set and saved five match points, but it was too little too late.
Despite the ease of her win, Azarenka was wary of the threat posed by Krejcikova, one of the most improved players last year who won three titles, including Roland Garros.
“I think the rise of Barbora has been pretty incredible over the last year and a half,” said the Belarusian.
“She seems to kind of elevate her game more and more. She has all the good tools to play — she can play aggressive, she can mix it up. Very dangerous player.”