Azarenka fights her way into final
Originally published on: 26/01/12 07:20
Victory tasted sweet for the 22-year-old Belarusian. Going into this match she trailed the crowd favourite Kim Clijsters in their head to head meetings by four matches to two. But on the big stage, she held her nerve and sent the defending champion on her way.
It was a sign of how much the match meant to both players that at times it was a display of hard-hitting quality women’s tennis coupled with patches of nervous play.
Azarenka got off to the best start taking the first set in 49 minutes, but it was followed by the concession of the second set to Clijsters as she picked up only one game. In her ability to come back in the third set, the Belarusian demonstrated how far she has matured and explained afterwards how she managed to come back.
“I just tried to start to be more aggressive and try to play my game and, yeah, start from the beginning I have one more set to go. I have another. I don’t know, hour, 30 minutes, 40 minutes to make a difference. That was my mental approach”.
Azarenka has been working on her fitness in the off season and that has added to her confidence as she commented: “It helped me mentally to know that I can handle it. I can play for as long as I need.”
Her opponent could see how much Azarenka has developed, Clijsters commented that: “I think her best tennis is not that much different than it was a few years ago. It’s just more consistent. You know, experience. I think she used to be a little bit up and down emotionally as well. She used to be able to get really down on herself. I think she’s learned. I think that’s part of growing up, being more confident. She’s obviously playing with a lot of confidence, as well. That shows.”
The final set lasted 47 minutes and was littered with unforced errors. Azarenka made 14 and Clijsters 21. Azarenka served for the match at 5-3, and blew her first match point with a double fault. On the second, she tossed the ball up on her second serve but did not hit it, re-settled herself, got the ball into play, forced the error from Clijsters and fell to her knees as she booked her place in her first Grand Slam final.
Talking about her emotions at that point she said: “You’re just relieved and you’re happy and you’re excited. There’s so much going on through your mind that you just can’t pick one thing what’s really happening to you. But definitely relief and a lot of joy.”
Now only Maria Sharapova stands in the way of Azarenka winning her first Grand Slam after the Russian defeated Petra Kvitova in the second semi-final of the day.