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PREVIEW: 2023 Women’s Australian Open – Selected Quarter-finals – 24 January

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 Women’s Australian Open Selected Quarter-final matches as Jessica Pegula takes on Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko faces Elena Rybakina.

Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 Women’s Australian Open Selected Quarter-final matches as Jessica Pegula takes on Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko faces Elena Rybakina.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2023 ATP Tour
Grand Slam Tennis
Australian Open
Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia (Outdoor Hardcourt)
Selected Quarter-finals
24 January

Jessica Pegula (7/20) | Victoria Azarenka (21/10)

This match will pitch one of my pre-tournament favorites- Jessica Pegula- against one of my pre-tournament dark horses- Victoria Azarenka. American billionaire Jessica Pegula is yet to drop a set in the tournament, defeating 20th seed Barbora Krejcikova in straight sets last time out.

She is now the highest seed left in the women’s draw following Iga Swiatek’s dramatic loss to Elena Rybakina. It will be interesting to see how Pegula handles the weight of that (she does tend to enjoy that slight underdog vibe). This will be her 3rd consecutive quarterfinal in Melbourne.

She will look to do a lot better this year: she was trounced by eventual champion Ashleigh Barty. I think Pegula picked up a huge amount of confidence from winning that WTA 1000 title in Guadalajara. It was the final piece of validation she needed to prove she could compete with the very best. She will take some stopping.

Former two-time champion Victoria Azarenka has really turned back the clock in Melbourne this fortnight. Beset by a litany of legal and physical woes, the Belarusian faded from relevance over the past five years.

But she always has possessed the capacity to produce on the biggest stage (just look at that 2020 US Open final run). Azarenka’s course towards this year’s quarterfinal has not been as serene as Pegula’s. She has had to come back from a set down in each of her last two matches (against Keys and Liu).

She looks physically up for it this year. Having said that, I do have my concerns for her going into this match. Her brutal three-set epic against Liu finished a full seven hours after Pegula’s more straightforward victory against Krejcikova.

Verdict: Pegula to win in three sets at 29/10

This will be the 5th career meeting between these two. They share the spoils at two wins a piece. Pegula won their last match in straight sets, besting Azarenka en route to her Guadalajara title in October. So, it would appear that these two are actually pretty evenly matched. Azarenka clearly has an affinity for these surfaces while Pegula is one of the most consistent hardcourt players in world tennis at present.

Ultimately, I think Azarenka’s more gruelling schedule will catch up to her. Pegula is yet to drop a set and has looked exceptionally solid. I expect her to move Azarenka around the court, probing for any hint of fatigue. Pegula is really starting to look like our now obligatory American ladies’ finalist this year.

Jelena Ostapenko (16/10) | Elena Rybakina (48/100)

‘Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get’. That is the famous line from Forrest Gump. Which could easily double as Jelena Ostapenko’s Wikipedia bio.

Honestly, has there ever been a more mercurial (or dangerous) player This is exemplified by the fact that she became the first unseeded player since 1933 to win the French Open title. Form just doesn’t apply to this ‘see ball, hit ball’ player. Last year was a perfect distillation of this.

She won the WTA 500 event in Dubai, beating four former Grand Slam champs in the progress. She then followed that up with as semi-final run in Qatar. She then lost her next four first-round matches! But she has looked excellent this fortnight and is fresh off arguably one of the best performances of her career.

She blew Coco Gauff off the court, winning the baseline duel and hitting 30 winners in the process. This will be her first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance since a semi-final run at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships.

Elena Rybakina continues to defy expectations, shocking the entire tennis world with her victory against the seemingly unbeatable Iga Swiatek. Rybakina has been disrespected since her success at Wimbledon last year, often relegated to fringe courts in major events.

She has a quiet on-court demeanor and shuns the more glamourous aspects of the lifestyle. She should actually be seeded much higher than 22. But the decision to not award ranking points at Wimbledon last year has proved a big hurdle for the Kazakh star.

But she has looked like a true Grand Slam champion this fortnight, accounting for last year’s beaten finalist Collins before that victory against Swiatek. Her booming serve is getting plenty of purchase on these courts.

Verdict: Rybakina to win in straight sets at 11/10

Otsapenko leads the head-to-head 2-0, winning their last match in straight sets at the 2021 Eastbourne International (which she won as a wildcard). I just think Rybakina looks like a woman possessed this year. Her serve will disrupt Ostapenko’s rhythm and could bring those unforced errors out of the locker.

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