LONDON • Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka fought back to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon with a gritty 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over British wild card Heather Watson yesterday.
Competing in her first Grand Slam since taking a year off to have her first child in December, Azarenka is bidding to become the first mother to win Wimbledon in 37 years.
In just her second tournament following son Leo's birth, the 27-year-old Belarusian had to dig deep to beat battling home favourite Watson on Centre Court.
Watson, the world No. 102, made a fast start as she looked to make the fourth round for the first time.
But, after a sloppy first set, the two-time Australian Open champion stepped on the gas to keep alive her attempt to emulate Evonne Goolagong, who was the last mum to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in 1980.
"The whole match I was a little bit on the back foot. The second set I started to step in a little bit more," Azarenka said.
"I still feel that I should clean up my game a little bit but I'm very happy that I stayed tough in the important moments and took my opportunities because the third set was a little bit up and down.
Men’s 3rd rd: Marin Cilic (Cro) bt
Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4
7-6(7-3) 6-4, Roberto Bautista
Agut (Esp) bt Kei Nishikori (Jpn)
6-4 7-6(7-3) 3-6 6-3.
Women’s 3rd rd: Ana Konjuh
(Cro) bt Dominika Cibulkova
(Svk) 7-6(7-3) 3-6 6-4, Victoria
Azarenka (Blr) bt Heather
Watson (Gbr) 3-6 6-1 6-4,
Caroline Garcia (Fra) bt Madison
Brengle (USA) 6-4 6-3.
"I really played well in the important moments. I really stepped up."
Azarenka, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2011 and 2012, will play world No. 2 Simona Halep or China's Peng Shuai on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Earlier, Kei Nishikori made a shock third-round exit against Roberto Bautista Agut.
The Japanese had hoped to finally advance past the fourth round at Wimbledon this year.
But the world No. 9 did not even reach the last 16 as he was overpowered 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-3 by the Spanish 18th seed.
Day 6: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 6.30pm