MELBOURNE: Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka recovered from an error-strewn first set to became the first woman into the Australian Open semi-finals with victory over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska on Tuesday.
Both players were broken four times in a low-quality opener, and Azarenka capitulated 0-7 in the tiebreak. But she bounced back to win convincingly 6-7 (0/7), 6-0, 6-2 in two hours in soaring heat on centre court.
Azarenka is into her second grand slam semi-final, after reaching the same stage at Wimbledon last year, and will now play either defending champion Kim Clijsters or world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
“We can’t play each other without it going to three sets, we have to push each other to the limit,” said Azarenka, who has now played six three-setters with Radwanska in their 10 meetings.
In a bewildering first set, neither player appeared comfortable on serve and breaks came thick and fast despite both landing a high percentage of first serves, 73 percent for Azarenka and 76 percent for Radwanska.
But after sharing eight service breaks Radwanska was able to lift when it counted and she raced through the tiebreak without dropping a point.
However, Azarenka responded well and at last began to hold serve with authority, while Radwanska continued to struggle. The Pole handed over three more breaks of serve in the 26-minute second set as Azarenka drew level.
The Belarusian now began to find her range with her powerful ground strokes and she won the opening game of the third set, before Radwanska at last stopped the rot by holding her serve for just the third time in the match.
But Azarenka’s superior firepower was telling and she turned the screws by holding her next serve to love and then breaking Radwanska to open a 3-1 lead, only to immediately surrender the break with a nervous service game.