Olympic Semifinal Set: Azarenka Vs Serena
Published August 02, 2012 12:00
LONDON, England - Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams set up a rematch of their Wimbledon semifinal in the Olympic semifinals at, well, Wimbledon, after both hit through some very tenacious opponents Thursday.
The No.1-seeded Azarenka was the first to advance, lifting her game at the end of both sets to get past No.7 seed Angelique Kerber, 64 75. The two traded breaks of serve throughout the match, but it was Azarenka who really stepped up her returning at crunch time, breaking in the final game of both sets.
"We had the longest rallies. At one point I just couldn't believe when it was going to be over during the point," Azarenka said. "It was a really tough one, a very good match from both of us. We showed very high quality tennis and a big fight today, and there's nothing more that you could ask from both of us.
"It was important to take command first and stay aggressive. It was very difficult to do it all the time against her, but in the end I think I got it the most."
Kerber, who has been doing more winning than anyone this year - she has a WTA-leading 48 match wins to her name - gave high praise to the World No.1.
"Vika was playing very well. I tried to make my game plan work, but in the important moments she was better," Kerber said. "I fought until the last point and I was thinking maybe I could take it to a third set, but she was fighting until the last point also. It was very close - it was a very good match today.
"Only one of us could win today. It was still a good tournament for me."
Azarenka was asked how close she feels to winning a medal now. "I always think about medals, but not on court - I just try to do my job and focus on the present, and not really think about the future because I'm focused. If you play well, the result will take care of itself. It's just a matter of trying to stay focused on the tournament. A medal still seems really far away right now."
One of Azarenka's toughest rivals will be on the other side of the net in the semifinals. Williams, the No.4 seed here, hit more than four times the winners and never faced a break point to rout No.8 seed Caroline Wozniacki, 60 63.
"It wasn't a quick first set - it was 32 minutes, it's not as if it was 15 minutes," Williams said. "She was playing really tough. But I know I can rally up to a hundred balls if necessary, and when you're playing Caroline you have to be ready to do that. She's so consistent - she was No.1 for a reason.
"No matter what happened, I'm in a medal round now so I'm very excited."
Williams leads Azarenka in their head-to-head series, 8-1, losing in the final of Miami in 2009 but winning all six meetings since then - including the last four in straight sets. She put on a phenomenal serving display to beat her in the Wimbledon semifinals just a month ago, firing a personal best 24 aces.
"I love playing Victoria," Williams said. "I have nothing to lose. She is World No.1. That's what I love, playing when there's no pressure. It will be fun."
Williams has won her last 11 matches against Top 5 players, 10 of those in straight sets - the only one that went to three sets was her win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the Wimbledon final last month, where she let a 61 42 lead slip but eventually closed it out routinely in the third set anyway, 61 57 62.