Wednesday 22 November 2017

Azarenka sets up Sharapova final showdown

VICTORIA AZARENKA advanced to her first grand slam final after outlasting defending champion Kim Clijsters in a remarkable encounter at the Australian Open.

Clijsters, who is due to retire at the end of the season, fought hard but Azarenka's bludgeoning ground strokes proved too much as the Belarussian won 6-4 1-6 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes to set up a final meeting with Maria Sharapova.

Azarenka's powerful all-court game has seen her knock on the door of claiming the top spot in the world rankings, and the way she regrouped after losing the second set suggests she is becoming a more complete player.

She will now meet either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova in Saturday's finale.

"I felt like my hand weighed about 200kg and my body was 1,000kg, everything was shaking," she said. "But that feeling when you finally win is such a relief, I just want to cry. Kim really took over in the second and I felt there was nothing I could do. In the third, I tried to let my shots go a little bit."


Sharapova avenged her defeat in the Wimbledon final to Petra Kvitova with a gutsy three-set victory over the Czech.

Sharapova, who won 6-2 3-6 6-4, was overpowered at times but found the reserves to advance.

Saturday's champion will also become the new world number one, taking over from Caroline Wozniacki, who will drop to number four.

"I just felt in the third set she had the advantage because I was always down on my serve," said Sharapova.

"I thought I had to hit it and don't let her finish the points the way she likes to."

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