By Jaclyn Stacey
(January 21, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Victoria Azarenka kept her Australian Open title defense on track on Monday after comfortably disposing of Hobart champion Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1 in 58 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
She moves into a quarterfinal matchup with Svetlana Kuznetsova after the Russian defeated Caroline Wozniacki in a grueling encounter 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
Kuznetsova will carry a 4-3 head-to-head lead into the match against Azarenka and will be determined after re-discovering her passion for the game during her six month hiatus from the sport in the second half of 2012 due to a knee injury.
Kuznetsova won the 2004 US Open and the 2009 French Open and was asked how it felt to make a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam on the comeback trail.
“Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s my best result. I have been two times to quarterfinals, so I’m just kind of replaying that.”
“It’s very good result for first tournament, for first Grand Slam, and especially I don’t remember when I was in quarters.”
Kuznetsova raced to a one set lead over the Dane and said she was feeling so good that she stopped and before she knew it she was into a decider and needing to fight for the match.
“I was very happy with the first set, so happy that I stopped to do anything.”
“And third set I just had to fight every ball as I could, try to still dictate, try to do the things what I was doing well.”
Kuznetsova said that the knee injury was the one of the best things to happen to her as it forced her to take time off from the tour and re-discover her passion for tennis.
“Here I think it was time to just stop. My body was not able to hold anymore, and mentally I was not there, as well.”
“Never had a thought of stopping tennis. I was just laying in bed, and I was like, thanks my knee. At least I can rest, you know.”
“But anyway, I had time home and just refresh my mind, and then I just understood that I want to play this game. I mean, I always loved it, but I wanted to have this desire to bring me back; this is what happened.”
Kuznetsova said that her quarterfinal opponent will be tough to beat, saying that the Belarusian is a more complete player and has been able to rein in her emotions in the big points of a match.
“But, I mean, she’s tough; she’s No. 1; I have nothing to lose; she has all the pressure. I know I got the game to give her some problems, and I will just do my best and just try to enjoy it.”
Azarenka knows how hard it will be to take on Kuznetsova and said, “I think it’s going to be very tough match. I can see Sveta came back much fresher, much stronger. She knows how to handle big stages, big tournaments. She’s a Grand Slam champion, as well.”
Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.