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Wimbledon tennis: Mum Azarenka rallies into ‘sweet’ 16

Other Sports
Sat, 08 Jul 2017
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LONDON: With former England captain David Beckham watching from the Royal Box, former world number one Victoria Azarenka defeated British wild card Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Competing in her first Grand Slam since taking a year off to have her first child - son Leo - in December, Azarenka was caught out as Watson made a fast start to her attempt to reach the last 16 for the first time.

But the two-time Australian Open champion stepped on the gas to keep alive her attempt to emulate Evonne Goolagong, who was the last Wimbledon mum to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in 1980.

Only Goolagong, Margaret Court and Kim Clijsters have won a Grand Slam singles title after having a child.

Next up for Azarenka, who reached the semi-finals in 2011 and 2012, is world number two Simona Halep.

Meanwhile, Venus Williams became the oldest player to reach the last 16 in 23 years as the five-time champion defeated Japan’s Naomi Osaka 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

At 37 years and 29 days old, Williams is the most senior player to make the fourth round since Martina Navratilova, aged 37 years and 258 days, in 1994.

Navratilova went on to finish as Wimbledon runner-up that year and, given the absence of her sister and defending champion Serena Williams, the world number 11 will believe she can at least emulate that feat.

Osaka was born a month after Venus reached her first US Open final in 1997 and the world number 59 was unable to spring a surprise against one of her childhood idols despite an battling display on Court One.

Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, last won Wimbledon in 2008, but she has enjoyed a late career revival which saw her make the All England Club semi-finals last year and the Australian Open final in January.

She faces Croatian 27th seed Ana Konjuh in the fourth round as she eyes a 13th Wimbledon quarter-final appearance.

Halep, beaten in the French Open final last month, eased through with a 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) win against China’s Peng Shuai.

The win kept the 25-year-old Romanian on course for the number one spot in the rankings and put some order back in the women’s draw after recent upsets, but it was all done under the radar - no fuss.

“It’s open always when I go on court. Anyone can win the match from both of us. So I’m just trying to stay focused, to do my job as good as I can, and just trying to win,” she said.

British sixth seed Johanna Konta showed why she is the new bookmakers’ favourite for the title with a 6-4, 6-1 rout of Greek world number 101 Maria Sakkari.

The sixth seed, who will next play France’s Caroline Garcia, is one of the favourites to lift the title.

“I’m much taking it one match at a time - but definitely working towards staying involved for a full two weeks,” she said.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko made the last 16 for the first time with a 7-5, 7-5 win against Camila Giorgi.

“I’m just trying to play free, not to think too much,” Ostapenko said.

“After French I’m more confident, so I’m playing every match better and better. I think I play aggressive. I control the matches. I feel pretty consistent.”

Her game still veers between rasping winners - a relatively conservative, by her standards, 24 against Giorgi - and unforced errors which would not look out of place at a local club.

That explains why her last eight matches, including her French Open final win against world number two Simona Halep, went to three sets.

Two sets sufficed yesterday, although Giorgi will be wondering how she did not at least take a set.

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