Accident-prone Azarenka steers clear of trouble

You never know whether she will make it to the end of a match, let alone a tournament, but as the French Open enters its second week Victoria Azarenka is becoming a hotter favourite by the day. The accident-prone world No 4 came here in excellent form, having won titles in recent weeks in Miami and Marbella,and has an outstanding chance of claiming her first Grand Slam crown, especially after the defeats of Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters.

After three matches, Azarenka has yet to drop a set. The 21-year-old from Belarus brushed aside Roberta Vinci yesterday, winning6-3 6-2. Serving with purpose and attacking the Italian at every opportunity, she took command from the middle of the first set and never looked in difficulty thereafter.

"I've been improving from match to match," Azarenka said. "I'm just taking it day by day." Considering her fitness record, that is a sensible philosophy. In the past three months Azarenka has retired in the middle of three matches, most recently when she hurt her elbow playing Maria Sharapova in Rome. Over that periodPetra Kvitova, who beat Azarenka in the final in Madrid, is the only playerto have got the better of her when the match has gone the distance.

Azarenka's bad luck has extended in the past to Grand Slam tournaments. At the Australian Open two years ago she was a set up against Serena Williams when she had to quit due to heat exhaustion and a virus. At the US Open last year she collapsed against Gisela Dulko and was taken off in a wheelchair, having earlier hit her head in a fall in the gym while warming up.

The defeats of Wozniacki, Clijsters and Sam Stosur, last year's losing finalist, can only strengthen Azarenka's chances, but she refuses to look beyond her fourth-round meeting with Ekaterina Makarova. Victory over the Russian would take Azarenka into her fourth Grand Slam quarter-final, though she has never gone further.

Azarenka is seeded to meet Sharapova in the semi-finals. The 24-year-old Russian, who established her own credentials as a contender for the title here with her victory in Rome earlier this month, nearly went out to the unheralded Caroline Garcia in the last round but coasted through her latest match against Taiwan's Chan Yung-jan, winning 6-2 6-3. Sharapova now faces Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-4.

Kvitova has been another of the season's outstanding players, having won three titles already. The 21-year-old Czech, who reached the fourth round with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Vania King, her third straight-sets win in a row, now faces China's Li Na.

After finishing runner-up at the Australian Open, Li lost in the first round of her next four tournaments but has recovered her form during the clay-court season, reaching the semi-finals in Madrid and Rome. Yesterday she just needed 61 minutes to beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-2.

The top half of the draw play their fourth-round matches today, with the previous two champions looking particularly threatening. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has dropped only 11 games, plays Daniela Hantuchova, while Francesca Schiavone, who has lost only 10, faces Jelena Jankovic.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory