Free-hitting German Angelique Kerber has sent two-time champion Victoria Azarenka packing from the Australian Open in a quarter-final boilover at Melbourne Park.
The seventh-seeded Kerber reversed a run of six straight losses to Azarenka to eliminate the Belarusian 6-3 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena.
While seeded higher than Azarenka – who spiralled down the rankings during an injury-plagued 2014 season – Kerber was a big underdog on Wednesday after being crushed by the former world No.1 in the Brisbane final earlier this month.
It extended Azarenka’s undefeated record against Kerber and the Belarusian continued to march at Melbourne Park, failing to drop a set in her first four rounds.
But Kerber set the tone by breaking Azarenka in the opening game of the match.
The German rifled a running forehand pass to claim the double break, surging to a 4-0 lead before Azarenka managed to get on the scoreboard.
But once she did, Azarenka was hard to stop.
The Belarusian broke Kerber for the first time and edged back to 4-3 as the German began to doubt.
In a big service hold, the seventh seed dug in to save another four break points to move to 5-3.
Azarenka quickly fell love-40 behind in the next game and saved two set points but not a third as Kerber converted early dominance to have the two-time champion under the pump for the first time all summer.
Having conceded only 11 games in her first four rounds, suddenly Azarenka had dropped her first set of the year.
But she responded in style, breaking Kerber in the opening game of the second set to seize back the momentum.
Azarenka powered to a 5-2, 40-0 lead, only to blow five set points as the free-wheeling German roared back to take the set and the match after one hour and 45 minutes.
Kerber will play either unseeded Brit Johanna Konta or Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai on Thursday for a place in Saturday’s final.