Bartoli Stuns Azarenka, Rounds Out Final Four
Published March 28, 2012 12:00
MIAMI, FL, USA - With some big serves, sizzling returns and a constant barrage of flat, two-fisted groundstrokes, Marion Bartoli finally put an end to Victoria Azarenka's perfect season on Wednesday night, outshining the World No.1 under the lights in the Sony Ericsson Open quarterfinals, 63 63.
Although Azarenka had dominated the pair's head-to-head in the past, winning eight of their 10 previous meetings, Bartoli was one of the last players to beat Azarenka, outlasting her in an extremely tight round robin match at the WTA Championships last fall (Petra Kvitova would then beat Azarenka in the final).
The No.7-seeded Bartoli took it to the No.1-seeded Azarenka from the very beginning, winning the first four games of the match and, after Azarenka won three of four games to close to 5-3, serving out the first set at 15. Bartoli got off to a flying start in the second set too, hitting back-to-back return winners to get to break point in the first game then breaking on a netted Azarenka forehand.
Azarenka made a push from there, winning three straight games to take a 3-1 lead, but Bartoli stepped it up another notch from there, dominating rallies with deep, penetrating blasts off both wings - she won five games in a row to win the match, and ran away with it at the very end: she won 14 of the last 16 points.
"The key for me tonight was belief, to really step on the court trying to win the match, having a game plan and going for my shots," Bartoli said in her press conference. "When you play someone who has been winning so much, it's even harder because she has so much confidence. And it was a very demanding match on the fitness side too, because she hits it extremely early and puts a lot of pressure on you, and makes you run a lot, especially side to side.
"I had to work very hard in the points and stay tough physically and mentally, but at the end I was so happy I was able to do that and win tonight."
Bartoli also pointed to mental toughness as a key factor. "When we played in Sydney this year, I was up 5-2 in the first set and 4-1 in the second set, and I lost both sets - so I knew I had to stay really mentally tough and not show her anything, just totally block out the negative things. Even when I lost those three games in a row, I didn't get down on myself - I had this positive energy. I was able to turn the match around again and step inside the court and play some great points. I'm so happy I could do that in front of Vika and this great crowd."
Bartoli finished the match with a positive differential of winners to unforced errors of +2 (27 winners to 25 unforced errors); Azarenka finished at -14 (16 to 30).
The victory was Bartoli's third over a reigning World No.1. Her previous two both came at Grand Slams, first Justine Henin in the 2007 Wimbledon semifinals, then Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round of the 2009 Australian Open.
Bartoli has No.5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska next. The head-to-head is daunting: Radwanska has beaten Bartoli all six times they have played, Bartoli winning the first set they played but Radwanska winning all 12 since.
"There's always a first for everything, so hopefully it's going to be my first tomorrow," Bartoli said. "I know it's not going to be easy though, that's for sure. She has been extremely consistent for a while now, since I think the beginning of the Asian tournaments last year when she just started to win absolutely everything. I know I will have to run a lot, and a lot more forward, because I know she's going to make a lot of drop shots. But I'm going to be ready."