With son Leo on her lap, Victoria Azarenka was asked if having him along for her Australian Open campaign was a welcome way to relax, an extra demand on her tennis duties or a distraction?
“All of the above,” the Belarusian star said with a laugh.
Azarenka brought Leo along to her press conference on Friday after blasting past the 15th seed Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-2 in 67 minutes to be the first player through to the fourth round.
The five-year-old had just one word to describe his mum’s performance: “Awesome”.
Azarenka responded: “Thank you for that”.
The world No. 25 is competing for her first grand slam crown since she won back-to-back titles in Melbourne in 2012 and 2013.
Standing in her way of a quarter-final berth is fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova.
Azarenka is in fine form, having dropped just nine games in her tournament so far.
But the way she talks about being with her son, one comes to realise her on-court feats are far less substantial than those in her life outside tennis.
“It’s definitely not a distraction, I will never say that,” said Azarenka, who was in a custody battle with Leo’s father after their break-up.
“But being a parent is not easy.
“He’s full of personality. I don’t know where he gets it from, obviously (laughs).
“But I always feel privileged that I’m able to have him here.
“These kind of moments are really priceless for me.
“For me to be able to share that with my son is pretty incredible.”
Azarenka could potentially meet Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals and thwart the Japanese titleholder’s own quest for a third Open triumph in Melbourne.
First she’ll need to get past French Open champion Krejcikova on Sunday after the fourth-seeded Czech needed three sets to overcome Jelena Ostapenko 2-6 6-4 6-4.
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 but may be tested on Sunday against American Jessica Pegula, who advanced with a 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 win over Spaniard Nuria Parrizas Diaz.
Seeded 21st, Pegula made a breakout run to the quarter-finals last year and is proving somewhat of a Melbourne Park specialist.
The 27-year-old has never ventured beyond the third round in any of her 18 other grand slam appearances.
In-form eighth seed Paula Badosa was made to sweat before continuing her unbeaten summer run with a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win over tenacious teenage talent Marta Kostyuk.
The Spaniard appeared to be cruising to victory inside an hour when up by a set and 4-2 before Kostyuk mounted a spirited comeback to force a deciding set.
After a high-quality baseline slugfest stretching almost two and a half hours, a relieved Badosa finally prevailed on her fifth match point.
Triumphant at last week’s Sydney Tennis Classic, Badosa’s winning streak now stands at eight matches and follows the world No.6’s charge to the semi-finals of the season-ending championship in Mexico.
Badosva will play Madison Keys or Qiang Wang next and also looms as a potential semi-final roadblock for title favourites Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka.
Osaka, seeded 13th this year, plays American Amanda Anisimova later on Friday, with top seed Barty facing Italian Camila Giorgi in the feature night match on Rod Laver Arena.
– With AAP