MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka shifted the spotlight from a tense rematch to her personal life with a center-court remark to rapper boyfriend Redfoo: She wants a ring with bling.
She may have been joking. Or not.
The comment offered the crowd a light-hearted laugh after Azarenka played Sloane Stephens for the first time since a contentious Australian Open semifinal last year, when Azarenka was accused of gamesmanship for an ill-timed medical timeout.
Like last year, Azarenka beat Stephens on Monday, winning 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals and stay on track for her third straight Australian Open title.
Unlike last year, Monday's fourth-round match offered little drama. Both Azarenka and Stephens have vigorously denied any lingering tensions and publicly, at least, heaped praise on their rival player's talents.
"Sloane is a great player, a very tough fighter," Azarenka said after the match. She also denied being ruffled by a body blow from a huge Stephen's forehand in the first set that hit her hard below the waist: "Why would I have a problem with that? That's tennis."
The win annointed Azarenka as the firm favorite to win the title after No. 3 Maria Sharapova joined No. 1 Serena Williams on the fourth-round casualty list.
It also renewed the focus on her boyfriend, known for his wild hair and wilder music. Redfoo, the LMFAO frontman, had been a regular fixture at Azarenka's matches, usually cheering her on in a T-shirt that says, "Team Vika."
During her on-court interview, Azarenka spoke about how the two spent the run-up to the tournament in Sydney, where Redfoo served as a judge on "The X Factor Australia," a reality show and music competition.