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By Chris Oddo | Friday July 7, 2017

This is exactly what Victoria Azarenka moved up her comeback by a full two months for: the chance to square off with one of the hottest players in tennis on the biggest stage.

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Azarenka got her wish on Friday when she rallied past Great Britain’s Heather Watson, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, to set a manic Monday clash with Simona Halep.

Asked if she was satisfied now, that she had made the round of 16 at her second event since returning from giving birth to her first son, Leo, Azarenka quickly scuttled the notion that she had achieved her goal just by reaching the second week.

“I'm not on a Cloud 9 for making it to the second week, but I do appreciate everything that I have been able to achieve right now, and I don't take anything for granted,” she said. “You know, I'm still in the tournament. I can't be too happy. I'm never really satisfied until it's done.”

It may be the case, and Azarenka has never been one to shy away from a fight, but her form over the course of Friday’s win over Watson indicates that she may be a few weeks or months away from truly hitting her stride.

Does she think she’s at the level of Halep, a player who reached the Roland Garros final a year ago and has amassed 29 wins against 8 losses on the season?

“I think it depends on the day,” Azarenka said. “It depends on the day overall. I don't think my level dropped, and I don't think it will drop. I think I'm a pretty well-rounded player, and I'm a big fighter. So right now I don't know how you compare that.”


Halep rolled past China’s Peng Shuai on Friday, 6-4, 7-6(7), and told reporters afterwards that she really feels good about her form.

“I'm really happy,” she said. “I think I played every match better. Today was a very high level of tennis. She plays really well. I played well. I'm really thankful with the way that I played and how I've been on court.”

The Romanian remains concerned about Azarenka, a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist, despite the fact that she’s only recently begun her “post-Leo” comeback.

“It's going to be big challenge for me, for sure,” she said. “Even if she stayed one year, almost one year, she's a tough opponent and a great champion. I'm just going there to give my best. Of course I believe I have my chance to win. But like I said, the match is open. I have just to step in and to take my chances.”

Notes, Quotes

Azarenka told reporters the story of naming her baby. For those who thought the name Leo might have had something to do with the name of Roger Federer’s son, the answer is no:

“I actually didn't know that about Roger's son,” she said. “Someone actually on Twitter mentioned that to me, which I thought was cool. Leo, I thought it's just a simple name but very strong. I didn't know it had a British origin. I actually thought it was more, like, Latin or Italian or something like that. I know kids like to make funny names with normal names, so it's hard to make anything up with Leo, so I was protecting my son there. And also, I'm a Leo as a horoscope, so that's the closest resemblance.”

 

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