Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Serena comes back from the brink to defeat Victoria Azarenka

She may not have been wearing a yellow jumpsuit, but everything about Victoria Azarenka said: Serena Williams, you and I have unfinished business.

Williams (who was wearing a yellow tennis dress) and Azarenka, playing in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, followed a familiar pattern in pro tennis: The higher-ranked player came out flat, and the lower-ranked one took advantage and played at an extremely high level.

Williams and Azarenka also met in the quarterfinal of last year's Australian Open. Azarenka handily took the first set 6-3, then had to retire in the second because of food poisoning, leaving a big "what if?" hanging in the air. Williams would go on to win the tournament.

Today, the reliably cranky Azarenka stepped onto the court looking out of sorts, rolling her eyes early in the first set when the first seed hesitated a moment before serving. But Azarenka is learning not to let her edgy temperament get the best of her. She quickly settled into the match, swinging freely, and overcoming Williams 6-4 in the first set. Though Williams had not been broken going into the quarterfinals, she was broken three times in the first set.

Anyone who is familiar with Serena Williams certainly wasn't expecting what happened next: Azarenka went up 4-0 in the second set. "When is Serena going to roar back?" had to be the question on most viewers' minds. Time was running out. And then she roared back, as she is known to do, working her way to 4-all. The set went to a tiebreak--and a really good one, I should add--which Williams won, 7-4.

Williams entered the third set as the force that she is, doing practically no wrong, and flummoxing Azarenka at almost every turn. She quickly went up 4-1, serving much better, and smacking fast and precise returns, especially on Azarenka's second serves. At one point, Azarenka just stopped and smiled as she stood helpless, watching the ball whiz by her. Williams won the set 6-2, and booked a place in the semifinals. Oh--and she hit 57 winners, including 17 aces.

Was there ever any doubt that Williams would come back in this match? Yes. Azarenka is a really good player with excellent instincts, who is headed toward better things. But not yet. Yes, there was unfinished business, but the world number 1 finished it--in style.

2 comments:

Karen said...

Diane, it was a fantastic match. I loved every minute of it. True champions dont die, they just slumber through a set and a half of a grand slam match. I have always had respect for Azarenka's game and although folks have been saying that Wozniacki is the one to watch I think Azarenka is the one to watch. Indeed I notice that Serena has now become friends with both ladies and I am hoping that her champion's heart will rub on these 2 and that they will emulate her more positive attributes. It was fantastic to see Azarenka keep it together last night and it was also wonderful to see a champion not flout her comeback in her opponent's game. The come ons and fist pumps were there but they were mostly to aid each person in their fight rather than an in your face victory sign. Really wonderful for women's tennis and it could not have come from 2 different players. I hope this is a sign of more things to come for the year.

Diane said...

Karen, I believe--with Vika--it's only a matter of time. She had a bit of a slump last year, which I think was due to a lack of maturity more than anything else. But she's dealing better with her emotions now, and as far as I'm concerned, she has nowhere to go but up. Azarenka has that something extra.

It was indeed a great match, with a little bit of everything.