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Azarenka Makes Semis, One Win From History

Victoria Azarenka will rise to No.4 - the highest-ranked Belarusian ever - if she makes the final.

Published May 06, 2011 12:00

Azarenka Makes Semis, One Win From History
Victoria Azarenka

MADRID, Spain - Victoria Azarenka battled past Lucie Safarova and into the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open on Friday, and she is now one win away from cracking the world's Top 4 - just in time for the French Open.

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Azarenka hadn't lost a set to Safarova in five meetings, and although she would lose one this time it was all the ground she was willing to give, as she won four straight games from 2-all in the third set to craft a 63 36 62 victory.

"Lucie came out firing lots of winners and serving well," Azarenka said. "I managed to step up my level but it was hard to break her because she was serving so well. I kept fighting for every point and got through in the end."

It has been an incredible two months for Azarenka, winning 18 of 20 matches. She won titles in Miami and Marbella and the only losses came via retirement - in the Indian Wells quarterfinals (a hip injury against Caroline Wozniacki) and in her first match in Stuttgart (a shoulder injury against Julia Goerges).

If the 21-year-old Azarenka is able to reach the final here, she will rise from No.5 to No.4 when the new rankings come out, making her the highest-ranked Belarusian player in WTA history - Natasha Zvereva was No.5 in the world.

Standing in the way of Azarenka and national history will be Goerges, who won an all-unseeded quarterfinal against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 64 62. They both pulled off big upsets a round before, Goerges beating No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki and Pavlyuchenkova No.5 seed Sam Stosur; but it was Goerges who backed it up, firing six aces and saving all six break points against her.

"No match is easy," Goerges said. "Anastasia's a tough player. She's young and already in the Top 20. I just told myself to fight and keep your energy up."

Only a month ago, Goerges reached her first Premier quarterfinal in Charleston; now she is into her second straight Premier semi, having won Stuttgart and now this. "I'm still a long way to becoming a Top 10 player. It's never easy and you have to work for it. I just want to focus on being solid and consistent."

"Julia has been playing great tennis against top players recently," Azarenka said of the German. "I need to stay focused and take my chances."

The only previous match Azarenka and Goerges played came in Stuttgart a few weeks ago. Azarenka led, 5-2, and eventually won the first set, 6-4, before a right shoulder injury made it too tough for her to continue the match.

"I picked up a shoulder injury during Fed Cup," Azarenka said after that match. "I've tried to rehab the last few days and tried my best here but it keeps getting worse. I didn't want to push it any further at the start of the clay season. I'll do some therapy in Monaco so hopefully I'll have time to recover and play Madrid. I'm sorry for the fans... I wish Julia good luck the rest of the week."

Goerges went on to win her first Premier-level title four days later.

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