Serena & Azarenka To Clash In Brisbane
Published January 03, 2014 12:15
BRISBANE, Australia - As if the Auckland final between Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams and the all-Chinese final between Li Na and Peng Shuai in Shenzhen weren't amazing enough, a dream final was set at the Brisbane International - the Top 2 in the world, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.
The No.2-seeded Azarenka was the first to advance, battling over two hours and surviving some tense moments at the end to beat No.4 seed Jelena Jankovic, 16 63 64. After dropping the first set in just 29 minutes, Azarenka got right to work, easing through the second set and storming out to a 5-1 lead in the third - Jankovic snuck out three games to cut that lead down to 5-4 but Azarenka closed it out.
"Jelena played really, really well in the first set - I felt that I could have done better, but it's just the matter of getting that timing and really fighting through it," Azarenka said. "I was able to change it around in the second set. I really tried to apply the game I wanted to apply, whereas in the first set it was a little bit out, a little bit short. So I had to get into that timing because I felt I was doing the right thing. It wasn't the best execution, but she was playing some really good tennis out there today."
"As the match went on she was getting on top of me and I was going down," Jankovic said. "It was close until the end. Even in the third set, when I was 5-1 down and came back to 5-4 and just missed a couple of bad returns - I was stuck, I don't know why. But so far so good. I played a good tournament. You never know what to expect from yourself after such a long break, but I think I did pretty well here."
The No.1-seeded Williams followed Azarenka into the final with a close encounter of her own, digging out of a 3-1 hole in a marathon 68-minute second set to edge No.3 seed Maria Sharapova, 62 76(7).
"The quality of the match was very high, especially from Maria's end, so it was good for me to come up with a win in that match," Williams said. "We're both very strong returners, and personally I couldn't get a first serve in today. My first serve percentage was really low. I didn't serve nearly as well as I served in my first two matches. So that obviously played a little bit of a factor during the match today.
"But it was fun. Some of those points were really long and the intensity was so high. Maria was hitting extremely hard and I was retrieving a lot. So was she. My gosh, she was getting so many balls back."
"I had a few missed chances," Sharapova said. "It was tough being a small break up in that tie-breaker and also missing that forehand just a little bit wide. But overall I was happy I could compete at this level in my third match back. I really have to take the positives out of this, because I have been struggling for a few months. This was a good sign for me. It was definitely a good week and good test for me."
Now, the Top 2 players in the world - World No.1 Williams and World No.2 Azarenka - will meet in an absolute dream final. Williams leads Azarenka in their head-to-head series, 13-3, but the pair split four meetings last year, Azarenka winning at Doha and Cincinnati and Williams at Rome and the US Open.
"It's a good rivalry," Williams said. "She's so intense on court, and off court she's so cool. So that's what makes the rivalry the best, is because when you step on the court I don't know her and she doesn't know me, and we fight like crazy. When it's over, it's over. There's a lot of mutual respect there."