Photo: Paul ZimmerVictoria Azarenka (BLR)
Victoria Azarenka reached the semifinals of Roland Garros for the first time in her career when she defeated Maria Kirilenko 76(3) 62. The world No. 3 attacked the Kirilenko serve in the opening set, forcing nine break points, three of which were converted. However, Kirilenko would not back down and, although she only created four break points, the Russian also converted three as the opening set wen to a tiebreak.
Azarenka proved too strong for her opponent in the tiebreak and won it 7-3. Kirilenko appeared deflated after losing the opening set and Azarenka capitalised. She won both break points she earned in the second set and won it comfortably 62 to book her place in the final four.
Her opponent in Thursday’s semifinal will be reigning champion Maria Sharapova who fought back from a set down to defeat Jelena Jankovic 06 64 63. Jankovic served exceptionally well in the opening set, and she was aided by a staggering 20 unforced errors from Sharapova as the Serb raced through the set, taking it 60. Sharapova won only six points on serve in the opening set.
The second set saw Sharapova find her range. She saw her winners count treble and her unforced errors count halved. Neither player failed to capitalise on a break point but the Russian forced more and levelled the match at one set all.
By the third set, Sharapova was in full flow. Her serve was almost unreturnable and she was chasing everything down. The world No. 2 seemed to always reach the ball, and Jankovic only managed one winner in the final set, which Sharapova comfortably won to book her place in the semifinal.
In the men’s draw, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic set up a highly anticipated semifinal. Ever since the draw was made and the two found themselves in the same half, this semifinal has been highlighted as a possible match of the tournament.
Nadal, who is looking to win his eighth Roland Garros title, looked imperious as he breezed past Stanislas Wawrinka 62 63 61 in a little under two hours. Nadal started quickly, breaking the Wawrinka serve in the opening game of the match and didn’t let off, breaking the Swiss’ serve once more to seal a 62 first set.
Wawrinka found himself facing break points early in the second set and was powerless to prevent the Spaniard from converting. However, he earned his first break points later on in the set to recover the break and level the set at 3-3. He was unable to consolidate his break as Nadal broke back in the next game before breaking a third time to take the set 63.
Nadal was in excellent form by the third set and he only made two unforced errors on his way to taking the set 61 and sealing a comfortable victory.
Djokovic had a potentially tricky encounter with 35-year-old Tommy Haas who has been in incredible form this year. Djokovic was impressive from the start and he stormed through the opening set, breaking the Haas serve twice and taking the set 63.
Haas recovered well though, and neither player could fashion a break point in the second set, which would be decided by a tiebreak. The two were still tied at 5-5, before Djokovic won the point of the day. An incredible 24-shot rally culminated in Djokovic firing down a backhand winner which was applauded by his opponent. Djokovic took the tiebreak 7-5 and, with it, a two-set lead.
The final set saw Djokovic take a break advantage and serve for the match at 5-4, but Haas refused to give in and broke the world No. 1’s serve, to prolong the encounter. Djokovic was not to be denied, however, and served the match out at the second time of asking for a 63 76(5) 75 victory.