Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Vika versus Sveta's old tricks

In un unexpected quarter final top seed Victoria Azarenka would need to be on her guard against two time Grand Slam title holder Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Ranked way below the Belarusian, Sveta has the experience, talent and strength of mind not to be intimidated as many of Vika's contemporaries tend to be.

Extended time out of the game through injury has invigorated the Russian and Azarenka is performing well, but slightly below her stunning form of 2012 here.

That being noted, everything pointed to the consistency of Azarenka winning through to another semi final.  Sveta has the capacity to commit too many errors not to be placed under pressure for more of the match than Vika who has grown to trust her game so much over the past 18 months.

Set 1 presented the crowd with the first look at a truly tested Azarenka for this year's event.  The first four games alone lasted the length of most of Azarenka's previous sets, and game four was essential viewing.
Here, on the Azarenka serve, both players pulled out some exhilarating saves amongst a few forgettable swings, but on balance it was quarter final tennis as we should receive from the calibre of the two on stage.

Vika saved a break point and Sveta out pointed the top seed on several game points with wonderful forehand winners and a memorable smash.  Finally it took a Sveta backhand to finish the epic game and take a 3-1 lead in an already worthy contest.

Kuznetsova carried on her solid work, counting on her backhand once more to serve out the fifth game and lead 4-1.  So close to a set, but with Vika at the other side of the net, near is not worth contemplation.

Setting up two break points in the seventh game on the back of a backhand winner Azarenka watched Kuznetsova double fault to give the game away and things were back on serve 3-4 with Vika to serve.
Without much protest from Sveta, Vika levelled the match at 4-4 and the odds had swung heavily back to the top seed for first set honours.

Kuznetsova applied her best efforts to delaying that outcome and held competently to lead 5-4 and then had the chance to take a 6-5 lead.  This she found impossible to achieve.  Azarenka stepped up the pace with a backhand winner, forehand volley and forehand winner for the break.

Azarenka served out the set after Sveta saved one set point and the reigning champion led 7-5.

The deflation experienced  by Kuznetsova could almost be felt by the crowd as such a tight set had slipped from her grasp.  Azarenka immediately increased the pain by breaking in the second to lead 1-0, but Sveta refused to fold and against all the odds she picked herself up and gave Azarenka one last whack.  It stunned Vika who faltered at the next hurdle nod games were 1-1.

That was the last hurrah for Sveta as finally Vika broke her resistance.   This was particularly sad as she had only recently come back from knee surgery.  A resistance fracture could require long term mental therapy.

Azarenka 7-5 6-1

Victoria Azarenka raised her game to a standard necessary to reach the semi finals but credit should be given to Svetlana Kuznetsova for forcing this to occur, since no other player had bothered pushing the top seed as she was in the first set today.

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