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.