Azarenka goes up a gear
Originally published on: 24/01/12 03:34
Victoria Azarenka reached her second Grand Slam semi-final and first at the Australian Open after beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-7 6-2 6-0.
The first set, which lasted three minutes short of an hour, was tight but eighth-seeded Radwanska played a magnificent tie-break – winning all seven points – to take it.
The story of the next two sets was markedly different. Azarenka turned the power on and the Pole could manage only two of the next 14 games. “I think she (Azarenka) just start to play very aggressive and much better. I was really in trouble,” reflected Radwanska afterwards.
Azarenka reached the semi-final stage at Wimbledon last year and the world No.3 certainly appears to be gaining momentum in her tilt for a spot in her first Grand Slam final.
At 23, Azarenka appreciates that her mentality has changed and that she is now more mature on the court.
“Today I really tried to forget about the first set and start from zero and really fight hard, really take it one at a time and keep going. I think that was a different mental approach a little bit.”
Having faltered in the stuffy heat of Melbourne and similarly hot climes in the past, Azarenka was particularly pleased with her ability to compose herself in the soaring temperatures.
“Weather is tough. Your mind is sometimes boiling and it’s difficult to think,” she said. “It’s a learning process. It’s taking a lot of time.”
It was the Belarusian’s grandmother who helped her to put tennis in perspective 12 months ago, an intervention which has done wonders for her on tour over the past few months.
“It was just kind of a little bit stupid for me to worry and say ‘Oh, my God. I lost a tennis match’. So what? I mean, life goes on and you keep going. It’s just a tennis match. You have to look in a bigger picture.”
With Caroline Wozniacki beaten by Kim Clijsters in the quarter-final that followed Azarenka’s match on Tuesday, there is a possiblity that when the rankings are released on January 30, the Belarusian could even become World No.1. As well as herself, the race also involves world No.2 Petra Kvitova and No.4 Maria Sharapova.
If you fancy reading more about how Victoria Azarenka has matured over the past year, check out the Richard Eaton’s fine feature in the January 2012 issue of tennishead magazine.