NEW YORK, NY, USA – Victoria Azarenka’s fine run at the Western & Southern Open continued on Friday as she came from behind to beat No.8 seed Johanna Konta, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
The WTA World No.59 had failed to win a match in either of her previous two tournaments in 2020 but has now recorded five successive wins for the first time in more than four years.
"I think it was a really good, high quality match overall," Azarenka said in her post-match press conference. "I think Johanna played really, really well. Especially in the first set, she was really taking a lot of chances, and some of the opportunities that I had I didn't maybe go enough for them. But she was really, really strong."
"I felt that in the second set I was able to manage those opportunities better, step up a little bit," Azarenka continued. "And then in the third set I felt like I was more, you know, in my pace and doing what I wanted to do, so I felt more comfortable."
Azarenka hit 26 winners to just 12 unforced errors in a match that lasted two hours 19 minutes as Konta, who had a 2-1 head-to-head advantage between the pair before the meeting, was added to an impressive list of names the Belarusian has claimed this week, including Donna Vekic, Caroline Garcia, Alizé Cornet and Ons Jabeur.
"It was just constant work that I kept putting in on a daily basis and perspective and your mentality," said Azarenka. "That's it. There is no magic thing. I know sometimes when you have results, people are looking for some magic trick that you're doing, but there is no magic. There's just work, consistent work."
Naomi Osaka awaits in the final as Azarenka chases a 21st career title. Osaka defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets in Friday's other semifinal.
The opening set was decided by just a single break in Konta’s favor, but the 2013 champion stole serve three times in the second as she offered a decisive reply. In the third, Azarenka made the breakthrough in the fourth game, having carried on her momentum from the back end of the second, and ran away with it.
Konta arrived for this match having enjoyed a tournament in which she had served impeccably. She had faced only two break points in overcoming Maria Sakkari in the quarters, but in her first service game of the match she found herself forced to fend off her rival, firing a forehand winner down the line to deny Azarenka an early break.
It was the only moment of real danger she faced on serve in the set, which swung her way with a break after 20 minutes of play.
Her margin of success in the opener might have been more emphatic as she held six set points on the Azarenka serve only for all to be fought off. Although the British player claimed the first frame on serve, the former WTA World No.1 had sent a message that she would not readily be beaten.
Indeed, Azarenka rallied in the second, raising the bar on what had already been an impressive level. She stepped up the court and counterpunched in a formidable manner, while her aggression when given a chance to attack the Konta serve was admirable.
It allowed the WTA World No.59 to boss the second set, despite Konta chalking up 11 winners to just four unforced errors.
Azarenka’s constant pressure allowed her to become the first player to break the serve of the Monterrey semifinalist, who had held in 30 successive games, this week.
Although there was an immediate lapse that allowed her opponent to level, a flashing forehand down the line from the two-time Australian Open champion quickly re-established her control.
A handful of worrying moments on serve followed, notably when she fired a drive volley into the net when 5-3 and seeking the set, but her response was always positive, while her hitting was typically more consistent than that of her opponent, allowing her to level.
Carrying all the momentum into the decider, Azarenka, who wore a smile on her face throughout, sprinted away with the match.
Konta saved a break point in the second game of the set to move to 1-1, but she was powerless to stop the Azarenka juggernaut as the Belarusian span together five impeccable games before sealing the match with an ace out wide.