Number-one seed Victoria Azarenka dominated the first set before holding on late to finish off 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens 6–1, 6–4 Thursday in the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Stephens’ charge to the semis was her furthest in a major while Azarenka will face Li Na in the finals, looking for her second straight Australian Open title. But Thursday’s match was not an easy one for the 23-year-old.
After breezing through the first set, Azarenka led 2–0 in the second when she suddenly started to favor her left leg. The noticeable limp went away after a few points, though Stephens took advantage, breaking Azarenka and then tying the set at two games apiece.
Stephens’ serve though clearly was lacking on the day, winning just 45 percent of her first serves and 30 percent of her second.
Azarenka then broke her again, one of seven times on the day, and eventually went up 5–3 where she served for the match.
But match points are usually the hardest and Stephens fought off five of them in that game before finally getting the break to pull within 5–4. At that point Azarenka, who was clearly flustered, all of a sudden called for two medical timeouts—one for her left knee and one for her ribs—and left the court for nearly 10 minutes.Stephens, who sat and rested the entire time, came out a bit flat in the final game and Azarenka was able to close out the match for her 13th straight win overall in the tournament.
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