Super-mum Azarenka eyes third Open crown

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is eyeing another Melbourne Park crown, but her first as a tennis super-mum.

ELINA SVITOLINA.
ELINA SVITOLINA. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

A decade after Kim Clijsters ruled, an inspired Victoria Azarenka is staking her own claim to be Melbourne Park's new tennis super-mum.

Azarenka upped her bid for a third Australian Open crown with a brutal third-round dispatch of Elina Svitolina as defending champion Naomi Osaka crashed out.

With five-year-old son Leo watching on, Azarenka blasted past Svitolina 6-0 6-2 in 67 minutes to be the first player through to the Open's last 16.

"I feel like I played really well tactically and that I really never let her into the game," Azarenka said.

Champion at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013 before taking time off to have Leo, Azarenka has serious hardcourt credentials as well as her fierce motivation to join the elite ranks of grand slam-winning mothers.

The Belarusian has also reached three US Open finals, most recently two years ago when she beat Serena Williams in New York before falling to Osaka in the title match.

Osaka won't be standing in Azarenka's path in Melbourne, though, after failing to convert either of two match points in a shock 4-6 6-3 7-6 (10-5) loss to American Amanda Anisimova on Friday night.

Anisimova's reward is a fourth-round shot at Ash Barty after Australia's top seed crushed Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3.

While Barty still looms as a possible semi-final roadblock, Osaka's departure leaves Azarenka as the most accomplished hardcourt player left in the draw.

Azarenka must get past French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova on Sunday first after the fourth-seeded Czech needed three sets to overcome Jelena Ostapenko 2-6 6-4 6-4.

There's no doubt, though, that Azarenka is on a mission to join all-time greats Margaret Court, fellow Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Clijsters as only the fourth mother to snare a singles major.

After winning a bitter custody battle, Azarenka has even brought Leo along for the ride.

He sat on mum's knee during her post-match press conference, telling the world's tennis media how "awesome" she played in restricting the 15th-seeded Svitolina to just two games.

"He's not a distraction. I would never say that," Azarenka said.

"It's such a privilege. Not everyone has an opportunity to bring your kid to work and for my son to be inspired by what I do is priceless to me.

"I don't like to use the word role model. It creates too much heavy expectation for people.

"I just try to understand that I am an example in front of his eyes and I try to do the best that I can."

If she can get past Krejcikova, in-form Spaniard Paula Badosa or American Madison Keys will be awaiting in Azarenka's first Australian Open quarter-final in six years.

Keys battled to a 4-6 6-3 7-6 (10-2) win over Qiang Wang to book her fourth-round date with eighth seed Badosa.

After leading by a set and a break against Marta Kostyuk, Badosa was made to sweat before pulling out a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win over the tenacious teenage talent.

Fifth seed Maria Sakkari enjoyed a much smoother passage to the last 16, downing Russian Veronika Kudermetova 6-4 6-1.

The Greek has yet to drop a set en route to the second week and faces American Jessica Pegula next after the 21st seed advanced with a 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 win over Spaniard Nuria Parrizas Diaz.