Azarenka has unfinished business with Serena
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:31
Sony Ericsson Open WTA final, 12.30pm EST / 5.30pm UK
2009 could prove to be a breakthorugh year for Victoria Azarenka. This year she has truly shone, with WTA Tour victories in Brisbane and Memphis to her name already.
And now, after last month’s semi-final appearance in Indian Wells, the 19-year-old Belarusian has gone one better in a top-tier event, sealing a final berth after victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday.
But there will be more on the line in Saturday’s final for Azarenka as she gets the opportunity to settle a score against her opponent, world No.1 and five-time Miami champion, Serena Williams.
Williams and Azarenka have met twice, each time at the Australian Open. Last year’s third round match was a routine straight-sets victory for the American. This year’s fourth round match, however, was anything but routine.
Azarenka stunned Williams, claiming the opening set in some style 6-3. But, under the sweltering heat of the Melbourne sun, the youngster’s body couldn’t cope. She took a medical break after almost vomiting into her hands and tried to keep out of the sun by stumbling into the shade at the end of each point.
It was all too much. She almost fainted as she started feeling dizzy and struggled to maintain her balance. At 4-2 down in the second set, and with tears in her eyes, she eventually heeded advice to retire.
“I got very sick before the match and it was just kind of a bad luck, because I played really well against her,” Azarenka recalls. “I won the first set but I had no more energy. I couldn’t keep up anymore.”
The performance had an impact on Williams, who went on to claim the Australian Open title. “She’s playing well. She played me well and really, really tough in Australia. I thought she did a pretty good job given she didn’t feel well.
“I didn’t serve well that day. Hopefully I can serve a little better this time,” added the world No.1, who beat sister Venus in three sets to keep alive her chances of setting a record sixth win at Key Biscayne.
“I am glad to have another chance to play against her, because in Australia we couldn’t finish,” Azarenka said.
In truth, a win for the world No.10 would be a major upset, but the fact that she has her first big-time final comes as no shock.
The 19-year-old moved from Belarus to Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2005 and victories in the US and Australian junior opens that year earmarked her as the next bright young thing in the game.
“It feels great that all the work I been doing is paying off,” she said.