January 25, 2016 / 4:14 AM / 2 years ago

'Loco' Azarenka battles Broncos anxiety

Belarus' Victoria Azarenka celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka was plagued by anxiety about her beloved Denver Broncos in the NFL playoffs but the Belarusian had few nervous moments in a 6-2 6-4 win over Barbora Strycova on Monday that put her into a fifth Australian Open quarter-final.

After wrapping up victory over the unseeded Czech, twice champion Azarenka wasted little time in finding out if her favourite team had booked their place in the Super Bowl.

“I played smart, I played aggressive and I took my opportunities. Can someone tell me if the Broncos won?” she asked the crowd at Rod Laver Arena during a courtside interview.

“Yes!” she screamed after being told the Broncos had beaten the New England Patriots 20-18 in the AFC title game.

”I was emotional the whole morning about it,“ the 2012 and 2013 Melbourne Park champion later told reporters. ”I‘m a huge sports fan, so when I‘m a fan of somebody, I‘m a die hard.

”I’ll get nervous. I get emotional ... When I play, I‘m in

control. I‘m in control of my body, of my emotions. That’s all on me. When it’s somebody else doing it and I have absolutely no control, I go loco. I will scream ... Break the TV or something.”

Azarenka’s screams were heard throughout the one hour, 26 minute match against Strycova but the former world number one was a model of composure in securing her fourth consecutive win at Melbourne Park without conceding a set.

Strycova could manage only two break points when trailing 4-3 in the last set but Azarenka saved both and eased to victory when her opponent committed a 33rd unforced error.

Azarenka’s bid for a third Melbourne Park title continues against seventh seed Angelique Kerber.

The pair played one of the top grand slam clashes last year when Azarenka fended off the German in three sets in the third round of the U.S. Open.

Azarenka also belted Kerber in straight sets to win the leadup Brisbane International and now rides a nine-match winning streak in the new season.

“I prepare myself for a very tough match because she’s very solid, very consistent and an amazing fighter,” the 26-year-old said of Kerber.

“Every match is going to be a different story. That’s how I try to approach that.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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