WTA screamers Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka both weathered three-set wins on Thursday to advance into the final of the 2012 Australian Open. The winner will not only claim the first major of the year, but the world No. 1 ranking as well.
“It means so much to be back in a Grand Slam final, a stage I have been to before a few years ago here,” said Sharapova, who avenged last year’s Wimbledon final loss to No. 2 Petra Kvitova, defeating the Czech 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. “I played someone that’s just had really great results and has beaten me the last couple of times. I just really wanted it today.”
But it was not pretty.
In the third set Sharapova double-faulted five times, with both players trading multiple service breaks.
“I just told myself, ‘You just gotta go for it; don’t let her finish off the points like she likes to,’” Sharapova said.
Serving at 15-all in the final game, Kvitova unceremoniously made three unforced errors to end the match.
“She had so many opportunities in that third set, and I just hung on and just really went for it,” Sharapova said.
Sharapova will now face Azarenka, a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 winner over Kim Clijsters, who is appearing in her first Grand Slam final. Australian Open fans are preparing for 1-1/2 hours of sounds of the hospital birthing ward.
“Even though Victoria hasn’t really been in that stage of a Grand Slam before, she’s certainly won big titles and she has the experience,� said Sharapova, who is 3-3 career versus the Belarussian. “This is a stage she’s wanted to be at for a long time, so I do expect her to play really good tennis.”
The 22-year-old Azarenka rebounded from a 6-1 second-set loss to put away the defending champion Clijsters.
“You’re just like relieved and you’re happy and you’re like excited,” Azarenka said after the match. “There’s so much going on through your mind that you just can’t pick one thing what’s really happening to you. But definitely relief and a lot of joy.”
The final set featured five breaks of serve as return of serve became a deciding factor.
“You don’t think about it,” Clijsters said about what she says is her final Australian Open appearance. “The loss is too fresh I think to think about something else. So I’m sure that will sink in, in the next couple of days.”
The final will feature a former No. 1 looking to end a long absence from the Grand Slam winner’s podium against a first-time Slam finalist looking to end years of speculation regarding her ability to challenge the upper echelon of players.
“I really have to be focused on myself,” Azarenka said. “For me it’s important to stay positive and stay on the same track, focused…in finals can happen anything.”
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Bob Bryan joined Andy Roddick (injury) in opting out of the upcoming U.S. Davis cup match against Switzerland as his wife is due to have their first child…Aggie Radwanska has picked up Borna Bikic, the brother of Jelena Dokic’s boyfriend Tin, as her new coach. Bikic formerly coached Dokic and Karolina Sprem (while also functioning as her boyfriend)…Andy Murray says he has eaten sushi at Nobu in his hotel before every win during the Australian Open…From Richard Hinds writing for the Sydney Morning Herald: “On Monday night, as Maria Sharapova gave birth to a fourth-round victory over Sabine Lisicki, seldom has Sir Norman Mute’s patented sound-killing device provided such sweet relief. So it was with some trepidation, and a pair of industrial ear muffs, that we headed to Rod Laver Arena to hear Victoria Azarenka, the new First Lady of Loud. Azarenka’s barnyard impressions had incited the usually generous Melbourne Park crowd to mimic her grunts during a match against Casey Dellacqua…Although Azarenka’s emissions stray well beyond “woman busting a gut” into the realms of “woman having her nipples pierced with a blunt needle.” It is difficult to describe, let alone spell, the noise Azarenka makes as she swipes the ball.”…Aggie Radwanska on the grunters: “About Maria [Sharapova], I mean, what can I say? For sure, that is pretty annoying and it’s just too loud. Of course, everybody can make some noise. This is tennis. It’s really hard work over there. But I think, you know, it’s just too loud. I don’t think it’s very necessary to scream that loud. So if they [the WTA] want to do something, why not?”…Maria Sharapova playing Fed Cup for Russia? The Williams sisters playing for the U.S.? Wha? Oh, right, it’s an Olympics year. That’s when Fed Cup becomes important, or at least relevent…Kim Clijsters has pulled from Fed Cup for Belgium the first week in February citing her deep Aussie Open run and ankle injury…Best headline of the week from Bossip: “Making It Rain On Them Hoes: Serena Williams Has Been Named The Most Fined Tennis Player Among Women AND Men!”…Nikolay Davydenko on Roger Federer’s lukewarm support of a possible player’s strike in tennis over prize money distribution: “I don’t know why Roger is not supporting the players. Because he don’t want…any problems. He’s nice guy. He’s winning Grand Slams. He’s from Switzerland. He’s perfect. He don’t want to do anything, he just try to be an outsider from this one.” And Rafael Nadal’s take on Federer: “It is very easy [for Federer] to say, ‘I am not going to say anything, everything is positive’ and come off as a gentleman and burn the rest.”…Mats Wilander fell in his apartment, injuring his kidney and suffering internal bleeding. When is the ATP going to get a handle on these in-home retired player injuries that are crippling the senior tennis tour?…David Nalbandian was fined $8,000 for reportedly throwing water at a doping official at the Australian Open. The classy Argy says he didn’t do it and will appeal the fine. Earlier he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct during a loss to John Isner. “I emphatically deny throwing water on an ATP staff member after the match against Isner,” Nalbandian tweeted. “During the anti-doping control while I was washing my hands the doctor unbelievably accused me of throwing water at him. With this fine, they would be carrying out two injustices, one on the court and one off. I will appeal the sanction.”…Sania Mirza says being double-jointed is the reason she’s injured all the time…According to the Aussie paper The Telegraph: “Teenage Australian tennis star Bernard Tomic has reportedly locked himself in his house in a stand-off with police over a traffic dispute involving his high-powered sports car. Tomic, 19, who has been granted a special exemption from his provisional licence to drive his bright orange BMW M3 to and from tennis training, shut himself in his home after police tried to pull him over. A police car followed him home with siren blazing after he failed to stop, and officers had to wait outside the house for Tomic to come out, according to the Courier Mail newspaper.” You, Bernard, are a bad-ass. Like Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.
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