Sixth seeded 30 year-old Serena Williams of the United States yesterday on the Wimbledon Centre Court demolished second seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-3 in the opening set, and then endured a strong fight back from her opponent to win the explosive encounter 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), thus advancing to tomorrow’s Ladies Singles final.
In the final, the four times champion (in 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010) will face third seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who also yesterday outclassed the eighth seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in two straight sets 6-3, 6-4.
Even though the pole, has been playing the game of her life this season, having already won as many as four titles (non-Grand Slam), was very impressive in her win over the German left hander (Kerber) in the first Ladies semi-final yesterday, it was the second semi-final between 13 Grand Slam Singles champion Serena Williams and Belarussian Victoria Azarenka that everyone was dying to watch.
The two determined Ladies’ march to the semi-final had convinced many that yesterday’s match was going to be nothing short a breathtaking duel between two of the hardest hitters of the tennis ball.
Although statistics of their past matches favoured the American since she had won seven of their eight career head-to-head confrontations including their last five matches, Azarenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and who had held the world number one ranking from January in Melbourne, Australia to just two weeks in Roland Garros, had not lost a single set on her way to yesterday’s match.
Serena on the other hand had lost a set against China’s Jie Zheng and Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova in the third and round-of-16 respectively. But the two close calls had become history when the American winner of the 2010 edition came face-to-face with last year’s champion, Petra Kvitoka of the Czech Republic, whom she defeated 6-3, 7-6 to move one step closer to tomorrow’s final.
The American slugger who knew she had to be on top of her game if she was to stand any chance of beating the much-improved Belarussian for the sixth time in a row, brought her A-game to Centre Court yesterday. Judging by the way she was serving and hitting her ground strokes with so much venom, with many of her service returns from both sides returning to the unsettled server with interest, it was clear to see that Serena detested letting the match extend to a potentially tricky third and deciding set.
With Serena serving a healthy 67 per cent first serves, in the opening set, including eight aces and no double-fault, she added a stunning and morale-shattering 20 winners, including numerous unreturnable serves, and just four unforced errors. When she crafted out her first and only breakpoint in the eighth game, she converted it immediately8 with an ace.
Such statistics in the first set against an opponent who was not playing badly herself do not make for a long set, as the set was over in 33 minutes.
It was in the second set that the filled-to-capacity Centre Court crowd had value for their time and money. It was again Serena who broke in the third game to move ahead, but Azarenka broke back in the sixth game for a 3-3 stalemate. At this stage, Serena had served as many as 26 unreturnable serves while Azarenka lhad served 14.
There were no service breaks in the set, which had to be settled by a tie-break, in which the Belarussian took a 5-3 lead. Not ready to go into a third set perhaps, Serena served her 23rd ace to draw level at 5-5. On her second match point, leading 7-6 in the tie-break, the American served her 24th ace to win the match 6-3, 7-6 (6), for a deserved place in tomorrow’s Ladies final.
Incidentally, the last time Williams (Serena) won a Grand Slam title was on the same Wimbledon Centre Court in the final of the 2010 edition. In that final, the American defeated Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2.
There will be two block buster Men’s semi-finals on offer today. The first will be between world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia, and six times champion Roger Federer of Switzerland. The other pits 4th seeded Andy Murray “Great British Hope,” against 5th seeded jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.