- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

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.

Rennae Stubbs, a former player who does on-court interviews for the host broadcaster, joked that Azarenka and Redfoo should buy a home in Australia.

“That’s what Redfoo was saying, we should get a house here,” Azarenka told the crowd, laughing when Stubbs then lifted the 24-year-old Belarussian’s left hand and noted it lacked a ring.

“It better be bigger than Caro’s,” Azarenka quipped, referring to Caroline Wozniacki’s earlier on-court revelation that her new engagement ring from golfer Rory McIlroy weighed a whopping 8 carats.

Azarenka dismissed questions about marriage proposals in her post-match press conference, but continued with comments about wanting a big ring- or in her words “a big, big bling.”

One day does she want one bigger than Wozniacki’s?

“It better be!” she deadpanned.

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