Photo: Paul ZimmerVictoria Azarenka (BLR)
Agnieszka Radwanska took out reigning Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, 61 57 60, to complete a semifinal line-up that guarantees a new name will be added to the trophy on Saturday.
The world No. 5 had lost the previous nine matches against her opponent but came out the blocks fast with the brand of stylish, inventive play that she has become known for and led her to within one match of the Wimbledon title two years ago.
“I think it's hard to play someone I lost so many times before. I knew she's great player. Especially here, she's playing amazing tennis,” said Radwanska after the match. “On the other hand, I really had nothing to lose. She was defending the title, not me. I was really trying to play my best tennis, go for every shot I could.”
Azarenka seemed to have turned the match around, however, in the second set as the players traded breaks of serve before the Belarusian held her nerve to force a decider.
There was surprisingly little resistance offered after this from the world No. 1 as she hit 15 unforced errors and won just four points against the Radwanska serve in the final set.
Azarenka was quick to complement her opponent but also admitted she was disappointed with the way she went about the match herself: “She was aggressive. She was making everything. She was guessing right. I was just playing a little bit too predictive, you know.”
“In the second set I managed to fight back. Third set, you know, the first game was important. I let it go, like easily let it go. From there just couldn't get back to it. It was tough.”
Earlier in the day Dominika Cibulkova continued her run of excellent form at Melbourne Park this year dismissing Simona Halep in exactly one hour of play, 63 60.
“I'm really glad with the way I played, especially with the way I handled it mentally. It was a big win against Maria. I was ready for it. It was for me like every other match. So I didn't take it too much, like too serious, so I put myself under pressure.”
The 24-year-old Slovak will play in just her second ever Grand Slam semifinal with her previous appearance coming at Roland Garros back in 2009.
"That time I was 19 years old. I was pretty young. I would say also a different player. You know, I am much more experienced. I went through so many things also already in my career. I would say more mature…I still want to do the same thing what I came into the tournament. I want to really enjoy it. I want to play my tennis. That's when I play my best.”
In the men’s draw Rafael Nadal overcame a dogged performance from Grigor Dimitrov after dropping the first set, 36 76(3) 76(7) 62 in three hours and 37 minutes.
The Bulgarian opened strongly hitting eight aces in the opening set and winning 100 percent of points behind his first serve but as that number dropped over the course of the match so did his chances of taking out the world No. 1.
The loss of the third set tiebreak seemed to be the key turning point as Nadal broke early in the fourth and again to win the match and sealed a return to the semifinals having missed the tournament through injury last year.
In the night session on Rod Laver Arena the final place in the last four was up for grabs as Roger Federer glided to a two set lead against Andy Murray and served for the match in the third before being broken and seeing two match points slip by as the British No. 1 refused to give in and extended the match the a fourth set.
The four-time champion missed further opportunities at the start of the next set as six break points came and went in Murray’s opening service game and another was lost in the sixth game.
The key break finally came with the score at 3-4 as Murray for a second time dropped to 0-40 and despite a couple of big serves to fend off the first two, Federer could breathe a sigh of relief as he converted at the tenth time of asking.
The exclamation point was put on the win with an ace to seal a 63 64 67(6) 63 victory and set up a 33rd meeting against Nadal in the next round.
The women’s doubles semifinals also took place on Wednesday with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci keeping alive their hopes of defending the title as they beat Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik in straight sets.
Waiting for them in the final will be a rematch of their semifinal from last year after Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina defeated Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears.
The ITF produces men's match notes at the Australian Open. For a full list of the notes please click here.