Seventh seed Angelique Kerber has secured a surprise 6-3, 7-5 victory over Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Despite being seeded six places higher than Azarenka, Kerber was most certainly the underdog heading into Wednesday’s encounter on Rod Laver Arena, but the 28-year-old threw the form book out the window to book her spot in the final four.
Azarenka held a 6-0 head-to-head record over Kerber heading into the match, and having downed the German as recently as earlier in January it was expected that the former world number one would make light work of Kerber. Quite the opposite proved the case.
In the opening stages of the match it was as if Azarenka was playing against brick wall; everything she fired at Kerber came right back, and with some interest. Kerber produced 31 winners on the day, 19 coming courtesy of her deadly forehand.
Kerber was hitting with aggression and depth and she raced to 4-0 up on the back of two breaks of serve.
A vocal Azarenka was willing herself to get into the contest, and it appeared she was starting to do so as she grabbed a break back. Was Kerber going into her shell? It seemed so as she tensed up, providing Azarenka with an opening.
The eighth game of the opener was a pivotal one. A 17-point game in which Azarenka had multiple break point chances would have seen the set go back on serve, but it was Kerber who fought through to hold.
She would then break Azarenka to take the set 6-3 in 48 minutes.
It appeared that the loss of the set had spurred Azarenka into life as she raced out to a 5-2 lead in the second set. The Belarusian looked in complete control – until she lost control completely.
Serving for the set, Azarenka was broken. There was no reason for undue concern though as she had another break in the bank, and at 40-0 up at 5-4 ahead you would have bet your house on her finishing the job. But Kerber wasn’t having any of, grabbing the second break back before holding to go 6-5 up.
The German kept her foot on the pedal and with Azarenka’s confidence having deserted her, Kerber pushed on and capitalised on the first match point that came her way, wrapping up the match in an hour and 45 minutes.
Kerber will face the winner of Wednesday’ second quarter-final between Johanna Konta and Shuai Zhang in the semi-finals.
From being match point down in her first round match, Kerber is into an Australian Open semi-final for the first time and has one foot in the tournament finale.
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