Australian Open

Azarenka survives onslaught

2013-01-23 07:09
Victoria Azarenka (AFP)

Melbourne - Defending champion Victoria Azarenka survived a torrid early battle with Svetlana Kuznetsova on Wednesday to reach the Australian Open semi-finals and keep her grip on the number one ranking.

A marathon first set took 1hr 17min before the world number one completed her 7-5, 6-1 triumph in 1hr 47min. She will face either Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens for a place in Saturday's final.

The very first game was a drawn-out scrap, lasting eight minutes and going to Russian comeback queen Kuznetsova, a two-time major-winner who is making a successful return from injury.

She survived pressure in her opening two service games and broke Azarenka in a fourth game that stretched to 15 minutes and included 10 deuces. After 34 minutes, only four games had been completed, with Kuznetsova leading 3-1.

Azarenka then trailed 1-4 but she broke back to peg the deficit to 3-4 as errors crept into Kuznetsova's previously steady onslaught. Another break gave Azarenka a 6-5 lead and she held her nerve to close the set.

The Belarusian began motoring to victory when she broke Kuznetsova's opening serve of the second set. She immediately conceded her own serve, but another break was exchanged and that was the end of Kuznetsova's resistance, as Azarenka finished the match with a barrage of groundstroke winners.

"She played really well throughout the whole match," Azarenka said. "At the beginning, it took adjustment because she plays such a different game.

"I'm glad I fought through and produced my best tennis when it was needed."

The unseeded Kuznetsova took a 4-3 win-loss record into the match. The former French Open and US Open is undergoing a career resurgence at the age of 27, making a mockery of her world ranking of 75 by beating number 10 Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round.

Her lowly standing at the end of an injury-marred 2012 was the first time in 11 years she was outside the top 50. But although she pushed Azarenka to the limit, the defending champion hung tough.

"It is the fire I have," the world number one said. "I have so much passion for the game since I was a kid. I wouldn't leave the court until 10 o'clock at night.

"But it is important to keep calm and keep humble in this sport."

The top ranking is up for grabs at Melbourne Park between Azarenka, number two Maria Sharapova and number three Serena Williams.

Azarenka is defending her points from winning the Australian Open last year, and must retain the title to extend her 48-week stay at world number one. Williams is assured of the top spot if she reaches the final.

Results from day 10 of the Australian Open on Wednesday:

Women's singles


Victoria Azarenka (BLR x1) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 7-5, 6-1
Sloane Stephens (USA x29) bt Serena Williams (USA x3) 3-6, 7-5, 6-4

Men's singles


Andy Murray (GBR x3) bt Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4, 6-1, 6-2



Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
  • Blitz
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
  • SS1
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
  • SS2
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
  • SS3
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
Sport Talk


Which is your favourite Grand Slam of the year?

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


30 of the world's greatest golfers will be heading to the Gary Player Country Club for this year's Nedbank Golf Challenge - now in its 35th year. For all the latest news, player profiles, hole-by-hole descriptions and past winners, be sure to check out Sport24's dedicated section.

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.