Victoria Azarenka was all fight, emotion and, in the end, song, in her 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 thriller Round of 16 match over feisty qualifier Aleksandra Krunic at the US Open.
Krunic had knocked off two seeds - No. 27 Madison Keys and No. 3 and Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova -- on the road to her nighttime match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. She nearly beat No. 9 Vika, who has been injured and hasn't had a lot of match play.
It showed in that first set. Azarenka had a 3-0 lead but ended up losing it, as Krunic hit amazing winners and used drop shots to her advantage. So frustrated was Azarenka with Krunic's variety that she started muttering to herself, gesturing to her camp, and, in one weird moment in the third set, chided herself for not moving forward toward a backhand shot thatby sticking her butt out and spreading her arms like a startled chicken.
She was exhuberant in victory, all gush and goofy. In her on court interview, Azarenka told Mary Jo Fernandez, "I love tennis, I love that yellow ball, I love hitting forehands and backhands, I love the way that feels." And she coaxed a baffled crowd at Ashe into singing "Happy Birthday" to Gael Monfils.
Later, on ESPN, Vika turned even more philosophical, banishing all signs of Tennis Hate with its best antidote: gratitude.
"Sometimes you forget that life is beautiful. Sometimes in the tough moments you forget that. But if you can keep reminding yourself that it's a new day, you can do something better, that seems great."