Azarenka Beats Clijsters

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Victoria Azarenka made her way into her first Grand Slam finals, staking a claim for the top ranking after she beat Kim Clijsters in the Thursday semifinals for the Australian Open.

The third-seeded Azarenka played 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 versus Clijsters, managing to regain her composure at least two times during the times when the resurgent Belgian appeared to have the edge. She managed to break the veteran’s serve up to thrice during the third set to manage a win in what was only her second show-up in a major semifinal.

For the final on Saturday night, the Belarusian, at 22 years old, is set to play either Petra Kvitova, Wimbledon champion, or Maria Sharapova, champion of the Australian Open in 2008. One of these three players will get the chance to end the tournament at the Number 1 spot.

Following a powerful start, the serve deserted Azarenka at the second set, with Clijsters leading the play thanks to her solid groundstrokes as well as impressive defense.

However, when Azarenka gained back her momentum, Clijsters wound up blinking first during the third set, with a dropped serve in the second game as well as the fourth. Two of those service games were gained back, one of which happened when she made a rally from 40-0 down to gain a victory and pull the score back to 4-3.

Immediately, though, Azarenka rallied again and broke serve. She received a triple match point when struggling to serve out the match, and following a double-fault on her first, an error on Clijsters’ part clinched it.

Azarenka tossed her racket onto the court, sinking to her knees with her hands over her face in a gesture of disbelief. Congratulations came from Clijsters, who came around the net to extend her goodwill.

“My God I cannot believe it’s over,” Azarenka said between tears, just before burying her face in a towel. “Everything is shaking but… when you finally win [it] is such a relief.”

She described her hand as feeling like it weighed 200 kilograms, and her body felt like it weighed about 1,000.

Clijsters, popular in Australia with her nickname “Aussie Kim,” is a four-time major winner, who had most of the crowd rooting for her on the national holiday. That was likely going to be her last game in the Australian Open.

Despite the audience’s support of Clijsters, Azarenka kept to her guts.

During an interview at courtside, she conceded that she probably appeared like a basket case, given how emotional she had seemed. She added that she was really glad about the way she would fight, as that was the thing she was most proud of. She described herself as fighting for every ball.

The Rod Laver Arena then hosted the semifinal between Sharapova and Kvitova.

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