Victoria Azarenka won a battle of big returners in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open, beating former No.1 Jelena Jankovic for a match-up with current No.1 Serena Williams.
WTA Staff

CINCINNATI, OH, USA - It was a battle of big returners in the second semi of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday night, with Victoria Azarenka edging Jelena Jankovic in three sets, 46 62 63.

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In a match-up between two former World No.1s, the serve wasn't too much of a factor - there were 23 breaks in 27 games - and in the end it was the holds that made the difference, with Jankovic getting the only hold of the first set and Azarenka getting two in the second set and one more in the third set.

At the end of the day, the No.2-seeded Azarenka just edged the No.14-seeded Jankovic in the decider.

"I think everybody has been kind of struggling with their serve here for some reason, but I don't know why," Azarenka told reporters afterwards. "Especially at night, it makes it a little bit more difficult. During the day, it might be a little easier. Yeah, it's something a little bit tough for everybody, I guess.

"I thought it was just me, but I noticed that I'm not that special."

Azarenka was impressed with Jankovic's play on the day though - particularly her aggressive tactics.

"I haven't seen Jelena play like that in a while, especially that aggressive," Azarenka said. "So it was great to go through that challenge. I think we haven't played in a while. So for both of us it was kind of important and we played great tennis. We were stepping up and taking our chances, and great rallies, great returns - obviously, great returns. And the movement was good from both of us tonight."

Azarenka has now reached the final of both of her summer hardcourt season tournaments - she was a runner-up in Carlsbad to Samantha Stosur, and will now play Serena Williams for the Cincinnati title.

"I feel much fitter than I ever was before - I think it's showing on the court a lot," Azarenka said. "Game-wise, what's important is to work through those tournaments, as preparation for the Open. That's what I'm trying to do, to try to move more forward. So I feel like these last two tournaments, my game is just coming more and more together, and my goal is to have it together in time for the US Open."

Sunday's final won't be easy though - Williams leads Azarenka in their head-to-head series, 12-2.

"I think it's just going to be a new match," Azarenka said. "We've never played here, and we haven't played on hardcourts since February. So it will be interesting to see how we're going to play against each other. There's no better challenge than to face the best player in the final before a big event.

"So I'm just looking forward to going out there and trying to do my best. Obviously I want to win, but I'm just going to try to stay in that moment and work on the same things I've been working on."