Makarova Serves Up Stosur Upset
Published June 18, 2010 12:00
EASTBOURNE, England - Victoria Azarenka is back. After losing more than winning for the better part of the last four months, the big-hitting Belarusian has rediscovered her top form this week on grass, and on Friday beat Marion Bartoli to reach the final of the Premier-level AEGON International.
Azarenka, who was three spots out of the seeds, had taken out No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No.5 seed Kim Clijsters earlier on in the week, and her upset of No.8 seed Bartoli was another great feat, especially given Bartoli was playing the semifinals here for the fourth consecutive year.
Azarenka broke serve twice en route to taking the first set then, after staying mostly on serve until 6-5 in the second set, broke easily at 15 for a 63 75 win over Bartoli and her powerful two-handed groundstrokes.
Azarenka's season leading into this week can be split into two distinct sections: she went 11-3 in her first three tournaments, reaching the semifinals of Sydney, the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the final of Dubai; between Dubai and Eastbourne she went 7-8, reaching just one quarterfinal, at Marbella.
"I turned the whole thing around," Azarenka said. "I found something in myself, that I had to do differently and push myself forward, that I had to do better."
Next for Azarenka is surprise finalist Ekaterina Makarova, who out-aced Samantha Stosur 9-6 en route to upsetting the No.3 seed, 76(5) 75. Stosur came into the match off some phenomenal service numbers, most impressive of which being 38 aces in her first three matches. But the heavy-hitting Makarova exceeded Stosur in that stat. She was also twice down a break in the first set.
"She played well. Anyone who has gone through the qualies and made it to the semis must be playing well. But for me to play this many matches and for the most part play pretty well too, it's a good thing looking forward to Wimbledon," Stosur said. "Obviously it would have been better to win today and win the tournament, but I'll take all the good things out of this week."
Makarova was ranked as high as No.35 in the world last season but came into this week at No.100 after some mediocre results this year. She was asked about that in her press conference after the Stosur win: "Nothing happened with me. I didn't play so well at the start of the year. But I like this tournament and grass too, and I'm enjoying every point and every game right now."
Neither Azarenka nor Makarova have ever been to the final here. Makarova has always loved playing in Eastbourne - in her only two previous tries, in 2008 and 2009, she was a quarterfinalist; Azarenka had never won a match here before this year. Azarenka and Makarova will be playing for the first time.
"I've known Ekaterina for a very long time. We used to play when we were 12 or 14, but we haven't played in a while," Azarenka said. "My coach was watching her. She played a great match. We're going to make a game plan later."