Azarenka storms into Tokyo quarters

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus celebrates her victory over Ashleigh Barty of Australia during their second round match at the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo on Thursday. AFP

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka thrashed Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 to reach the Pan Pacific Open quarterfinals on Thursday as she seeks a return to the top after giving birth in late 2016.

The Belarusian, who slipped further down the rankings as a result of a lengthy custody battle over baby Leo, will face either top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who is chasing a hat-trick of Tokyo titles, or Italy's Camila Giorgi in the last eight.

Wildcard Azarenka, currently 63rd on the women's WTA rankings, broke for 4-3 with a dipping backhand and clinched the opening set with a fizzing pass that landed on Barty's shoelaces, forcing the seventh seed to dump a forehand into the net.

Azarenka raced to a 4-1 lead in the second set and the two-time Australian Open champion delivered the coup de grace by jamming up Barty with a vicious kick serve into the ribcage on her second match point.

Earlier, Czech Barbora Strycova won a tempestuous encounter with Estonia's Anett Kontaveit 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 to set up a quarterfinal against Japan's newly crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka.

The Olympic doubles bronze medallist took the first-set tiebreak 7-5 but both players screamed in frustration at their wastefulness in a contest that lasted well over three hours.

Having used all her challenges, Strycova huffily staged a sit-down protest after Kontaveit saved one of eight match points with a passing shot that replays showed missed the line by some margin.

But the Czech returned to her task and closed out the match when Kontaveit whiffed a drive-volley far beyond the baseline.

Wawrinka in last 8

Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka advanced to the quarterfinals of the St Petersburg Open on Wednesday with a win over Russian fourth seed Karen Khachanov in two tie-break sets.

The 33-year-old Swiss star Wawrinka, a wildcard entry, knocked off world number 24 Khachanov 7-6 (12/10), 7-6 (7/1) and awaits the winner between defending champion Damir Dzumhur and Guido Pella.

Fifth-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut and Canada's Denis Shapovalov, the seventh seed, reached round two with respective wins over qualifiers Luca Vanni, 7-5, 6-2, and Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.

Martin Klizan of Slovakia upset Italy's second seed Fabio Fognini, the man he beat in the 2012 final, 6-3, 6-4.

In the quarter-finals, the left-hander will face the winner of the clash between Shapovalov and Italian Matteo Berrettini.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old veteran Mikhail Youzhny, who is playing the final event of his career, won 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 his opening round match against Mirza Basic of Bosnia.

 

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Azarenka storms into Tokyo quarters

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