Melbourne - Belarus's Victoria Azarenka upset
defending champion Kim Clijsters in three tense sets to reach her first
grand slam final at the Australian Open Thursday.
Azarenka, 22, saw off a powerful second-set fight-back by the Belgian
mother-of-one to win 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. In Saturday's final, she will play
either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova, who are in action later.
"I felt like my hand is about 200 kilograms and my body is about 1,000 kilograms," Azarenka said, wiping away tears.
"Everything is shaking but that feeling when you finally win is such a relief. I can't believe it's over -- I just want to cry."
has now gone one step better than her previous grand slam best of
reaching the semi-finals at last year's Wimbledon, and is one win away
from becoming her country's first ever major-winner.
She has often
faltered on the big stage, most noticeably at the 2010 Australian Open
when she led eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarter-finals by a
set and 4-0 before imploding.
But she stood firm Thursday to hold off Clijsters' revival and record the biggest win of her career.
I think you all thought I was a mental case but I was just young and
emotional," she said. "But I'm really glad the way I fought. That's the
thing I'm most proud of, I fought for every ball."
out with an obvious game plan to attack Clijsters' second serve and it
paid dividends as early as the third game, when she broke with a clean
forehand winner wide to the Belgian's backhand.
She kept on attacking Clijsters throughout the first set and was able to dictate the pace with her aggressive shot-making.
won her service games easily while Clijsters struggled with hers, only
winning 33 percent of her second serves in the first set.
Belarusian won the opener in 49 minutes but Clijsters rallied in the
second set as she cut down her error-rate and forced Azarenka into a
series of long rallies.
She held her own serve and then broke
Azarenka to love thanks to a string of unforced errors from the third
seed, running away with the set and seeming to be on track to defend her
But the momentum swung again at the start of the third as
Azarenka won her serve, then broke Clijsters to love, only to serve two
double-faults on her way to giving the break straight back.
now Clijsters' turn to look nervous and although she was able to save
three break points, a double fault on the fourth gave Azarenka a 3-1
She moved to 4-2 and had seven game points to open a 5-2
lead, but Clijsters refused to lie down and she got the set back on
serve thanks to yet another unforced error from Azarenka.
But in a
thrilling match Azarenka came again, breaking Clijsters to go to 5-3
and holding her nerve for a memorable victory, collapsing to the deck in
tears as the Belgian put a backhand wide on match point.
said earlier this week that she was in the best shape of her life after
concentrating on her physical conditioning in the off-season.
has also been able to shut out strong criticism of the screaming she
makes when she hits the ball, which included large sections of the crowd
mimicking her during her win over Australia's Casey Dellacqua.
is the first Belarusian woman to reach a grand slam final since Natasha
Zvereva finished runner-up at the French Open in 1988, representing the
She also has the chance to become only the ninth woman to
win both the junior girls and women's singles titles in Melbourne, and
the first since Australia's Chris O'Neil achieved the feat in 1978.