MELBOURNE, Australia — Agnieszka Radwanska unveiled her best tennis to knock out two-time defending champion, Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 to advance to her first Australian Open semifinal. The win snapped Radwanska’s seven-match losing streak to Azarenka, who had won their last 12 sets dating back to the 2012 quarterfinals here in Melbourne.
Three thoughts on Radwanska’s stunning and crowd-pleasing win:
• Radwanska played the perfect match: Stat sheets don’t have a column for the number of “oohs”, “aahs” and “Oh no she di’n't!” heard during the match. If they did, then Radwanska’s 23 winners to just 15 unforced errors would seem far more impressive than they initially seem. But Radwanska came out right from the start and played contained, error-free tennis to put the onus on Azarenka to be the aggressor. It was clear from the start that the defending champion wasn’t feeling her shots today and as the match wore on, Radwanska tightened the screws. The shots off her racket became more unpredictable and the placement more uncomfortable, and when Azarenka tried to make her move to break Radwanska’s serve, she stood tall.
• Azarenka brought this loss on herself: You can’t make 47 unforced errors against a player of Radwanska’s caliber, who retrieves incredibly well and can kill you by a thousand paper cuts. Azarenka’s forehand in particular let her down, as she fired 21 errors from that wing and let Radwanska off the hook far too many times. But perhaps the most surprising stat of the match is that Azarenka was able to break Radwanska’s soft serve just twice, both in the second set. That’s a clear signal that Azarenka, one of the most consistent returners in the game, was having an off day. She couldn’t put enough pressure on Radwanska’s serve — Azarenka earned just five break points in the two hour match — allowing the Pole to relax and let her artistry flow. And boy, did she ever.
• Azarenka tapped out in the third set: During Azarenka’s ascendency to the top of the game in the last two years, she’s been credited for her improved on-court maturity. That all went into the Yarra River the minute things weren’t going well for her today. The crowd at Rod Laver Arena let out some boos as they watched her let out blood-curdling screams, slam balls towards the backstop and just couldn’t get out of her own negative headspace. A defending champion going out 6-0 in the final set is a pretty disappointing effort. Then again, as her t-shirt read as she came into her post-match press conference: “Deal with it.”