Photo: Paul ZimmerNovak Djokovic (SRB)
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka will meet Li Na in Saturday’s Australian Open women’s final after the Belarusian battled through a controversial injury timeout to defeat Sloane Stephens 61 64.
Azarenka hurt her ankle early in the second set before taking a 10 minute injury timeout for what appeared to be stress towards the end of the match. The world No. 1 then returned to the court, duly broke to win the match and secure her place in the final.
"I almost did the choke of the year right now," said Azarenka. "At 5-3 having so many chances, couldn't close it out but I'm glad I could close it out. Nerves got into me for sure."
Li Na had a slightly easier route to the last two after she dispatched of Maria Sharapova 62 62 in one hour 33 minutes. Sharapova, who had dropped only nine games in her previous five matches, struggled with her serve throughout the semifinal and proved no match for the 2011 Roland Garros champion.
"Every time I'm back in Australia, I always feel something here," said Li Na. "I always play well here. Everyone can be nervous in a final, so I have to enjoy it. I'm looking forward to it."
In the men’s event 2012 champion Novak Djokovic remained on course to successfully defend his title after an imperious display of tennis saw him thrash Spaniard David Ferrer for the loss of just five games in their semifinal.
"I played incredible tennis," he said. "I felt very confident and comfortable from the start. It was definitely one of the best performances I ever had in my career."
The world No. 1 is bidding for his third consecutive crown at the Australian Open and his sixth Grand Slam title overall. He will face either Andy Murray or Roger Federer in Sunday’s final. Their semifinal match takes place on Friday.