Australian Open: Why Victoria Azarenka is on-form favourite
Victoria Azarenka surged into an Australian Open quarter-final against Angelique Kerber on Monday, with the odds heavily stacked in the two-time champion's favour as she guns for a third Grand Slam title.
The former world number one, seeded 14, proved too strong for Czech Barbora Strycova on Rod Laver Arena, storming through 6-2, 6-4 to set up a last-eight clash with the seventh seed, who beat fellow German Annika Beck 6-4, 6-0.
Azarenka, who won at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013, has a 6-0 record over Kerber, including in the Brisbane International final this month, making her a hot favourite to keep her run for another title going.
"I'm looking forward to it. She's such a fighter and such a nice person," said the Belarusian, looking ahead to the test on Wednesday. "I'll just give it my best and I'm sure she'll do the same."
Kerber powered past Beck to reach the quarter-finals for the first time and knows she has a formidable task ahead against a player who has won each of their encounters dating back to 2012.
"I had tough matches against her in the past. I never won against her right now, but that will be a challenge," she said.
"I will looking forward when I play against her to really take my chances, take the next match.
"It's a new one, it starts from zero, and I know what's coming from her. I will try to be aggressive and try to go and win the match."
World number one Serena Williams and fifth seeded arch-rival Maria Sharapova play each other in a headline last eight clash on Tuesday, while fourth seed Agnieszka Radwansa faces 10th seed Carla Suarez.
The final two players in the quarters will be determined later Monday when American Madison Keys squares off against Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai and British hope Johanna Konta plays Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.
Flying Frenchman Gael Monfils risked injury as he hurtled through to his first Australian Open quarter-final with a four-set win over Russian Andrey Kuznetsov on Monday.
The 23rd-seed won 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) in two hours, 37 minutes and will face either big-serving Milos Raonic or former winner Stan Wawrinka in the last eight on Wednesday.
Monfils, 29, reached his first quarter-final in his 11th Australian Open campaign.
The athletic Monfils thrilled the crowd on the Margaret Court Arena with his all-action game and he risked injury by flying through the air after being wrong-footed to retrieve a volley, to enthusiastic applause.
Monfils said of his flying dive onto the hardcourt: "It hurts, but it's something that snaps in my mind and I just go for it.
"I am just a competitor and I want win every point and sometimes I feel I can have it, so I just fly."
Monfils needed a medical timeout early in the match to seek treatment for the fingers on his right hand from his airborne volley.
"I hope it's not broken, it's a bit painful but when you play in front of a big crowd you want to play good."
Monfils broke Kuznetsov's service three times and lost his own serve twice in winning through to his overall seventh Grand Slam quarter-final.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has the most Grand Slam quarter-final appearances by a Frenchman with 12 in the Open Era.
"It's great. I'm very happy to get through to the quarters and I'm already focused on my quarter-final," Monfils said.
"I have had a great week, and I hope to have a wonderful second week."
Monfils won 81 percent of his first serves and said it was important factor against Kuznetsov.
"I focused on my serve, I needed to be because he was striking the ball very good and the... free points (aces) helped me a lot to get through," he said.
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