26
Jan
12

Azarenka ousts Clijsters to reach her first Slam final and the chance to capture the #1 ranking.

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Victoria Azarenka reached her first Grand Slam final and staked a claim for the No. 1 ranking when she beat defending champion Kim Clijsters 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday. The third-seeded Azarenka recovered her composure twice in periods when a resurgent Clijsters seemed to have the upper hand, breaking the veteran Belgian’s serve three times in the third set to secure victory in only her second appearance in a major semifinal. The 22-year-old Belarusian will playMaria Sharapova in the Saturday night final.

After a strong start due to a consistent serve, Azarenka’s serve deserted her in the second set and Clijsters dictated play with her solid groundstrokes and some amazing defence. But after getting the momentum back, it was Clijsters who blinked first in the third set, dropping serve in the second game and again in the fourth. She got two of those service games back, including one when she rallied from 40-0 down to win a game to get the score back to 4-3. But Azarenka rallied immediately again, breaking serve. She got triple match point trying to serve out the match and, after a double-fault on her first, she clinched it on a Clijsters’ error. Azarenka threw her racket on the court and sank to her knees, bent over with her hands covering her face. Clijsters came around the net to congratulate her. “I felt like my hand is about 200 kilograms and my body is about 1,000 and everything is shaking, but that feeling when you finally win is such a relief. My God I cannot believe it’s over. I just want to cry,” Azarenka said as she choked back tears, then buried her face in the towel. “It was just trying to stay in the moment. Kim really took over the second set and I felt there was nothing I could do. I just tried to regroup.” Clijsters is a popular player in Australia, where she’s widely known as “Aussie Kim.” The four-time major winner had most of the backing from the crowd on the national holiday in what is likely to be her last Australian Open. Azarenka held her nerve despite the crowd. “I guess before you all thought I was a mental case. I was just young and emotional,” she said in a court-side interview. “I’m really glad the way I fight, that’s the most thing I’m really proud of. I fight for every ball.”

 

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