In one of the crazier days ever at the WTA Championships, the three tournament favorites – Serena Williams Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova – all survived spirited upset bids in Instanbul Wednesday.
Serena began day two of the round robin getting in a 4-1 hole to the hard-hitting Li Na. Williams managed to regroup just in time to snatch the first set in a breaker then take the second for a 7-6, 6-3 win.
“I started out really strong in the first game but then started making errors, and Li started playing her game and playing it well – that’s all,” Williams said. “I was a little tight and my serve wasn’t working at all today, maybe towards the end – but that’s not how I usually play. The good thing is I can only play better.”
Serena is now 2-0 in the round robin and she has qualified for a semifinal berth. Serena’s also won 28 of her last 29 matches including Wimbledon, the US Open and Olympic gold.
After Serena, it was World No. 1 Azarenka’s turn to take the court but the Belarussian found her self down 3-1 to Angelique Kerber. Azarenka fought back to force an epic tiebreak eventually won by the German 13-11.
Azarenka got the early break in the second for 4-2 before Kerber roared back for 5-4 where she held two matchpoints, but it wasn’t to be. Azarenka got the second in a breaker then took the decider to win it 6-7(11), 7-6(2), 6-4 in three hours, six minutes.
“On the match points I just thought I had to go for it – she wasn’t going to miss, and I didn’t want to wait for her to make a mistake,” Azarenka said. “I was so determined to make it happen. I wanted to take destiny into my hands – if I missed those shots, it was going to be up to me, not up to my opponent.”
In the finale, Sharapova needed all of three hours, 12 minutes to put away the steady Agenieszka Radwanska 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in a match that finished at 2:12am local time in Istanbul.
“It was a very physical match with so many ups and downs. I wasn’t playing my best tennis, but I kept fighting,” said Sharapova who belted 66 winners to Radwanska’s 18. “And when you win when you’re not at your best, it gives you extra motivation to do better in the next one.”
By winning Sharapova also qualified for the semifinals and kept her slim No. 1 hopes alive.
“I’m happy to get to that stage – the goal is always to get out of your group,” Maria said. “I was injured last year and didn’t play very well, so to be in the semifinals this year makes me very proud, and especially given the way I fought tonight.”
Tomorrow, Kerber meets Li Na in an elimination match. Sam Stosur, who took the place of defending champion Petra Kvitova when the Czech withdrew with a virus, faces Sara Errani and in the main event it’s Azarenka and Serena in a US Open rematch. If Azarenka wins she clinches the No. 1 ranking.
Stadium (from 17.00hrs)
1. Angelique Kerber vs. Li Na
2. Victoria Azarenka vs. Serena Williams
3. Samantha Stosur vs. Sara Errani
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