Victoria Azarenka is through to her first US Open final after a epic three set victory over Maria Sharapova, earning a 3-6 6-2 6-4 victory in 2 hours and 42 minutes. She will face Sara Errani or Serena Williams, hoping to become a two times slam winner on the year.
Sharapova had started surprisingly fast, taking Azarenka by surprise as the forehand was working well and saw her to an easy hold in the first game. The second game would see the first of many double faults on break points as the Russian rushed into a 4-1 lead, completing the game with an excellent lob. Another double fault saw Sharapova extend her lead to 5-1 before the nerves kicked in. With Sharapova serving for the set, Azarenka quickly manufactured a 0-30 opportunity and then 30-40. A double fault for the third time in a row on break point kept the No.1’s chances alive in the set and they looked in great shape when a sloppy service game next time round saw Sharapova facing two break points. Under big pressure, Sharapova delivered with some big serves and finished off the set with a cracking forehand winner.
The missed opportunities looked to have affected Azarenka as she threw in another poor service game, dropping it again when a poor forehand was netted. However, Azarenka had been continuing to make more headway into Sharapova service games as the match went on and was returning much better. A forehand winner set up break point and a deep return forced the error to put it back on serve. Azarenka was growing in confidence as time went on and finally took control of the set, hitting a cross court winner to earn break point – the game was once more gifted with a double fault. It looked like Sharapova would force her opponent to serve for the set rushing to a 40-0 lead but more stunning hitting saw Vika earn break points, the second advantage being taken with another forehand winner.
With the heat rule in effect, both players took advantage of the allotted 10 minutes in order to prepare themselves for a set which would break some impressive year long records set by the pair. Sharapova had not lost a three setter or a match where she won the first set all year while Azarenka had also been unbeaten in three setters.
Each service game for Maria took maximum effort, recovering from dangerous positions time and time again. Three break points went amiss in game four, as the pair increased the tempo playing some excellent points. Sharapova held eventually for 2-2 as her serve continued to dig her out of trouble. After that both ladies lost three points in a row from 40-0 but recovered sufficiently as to not face a break point and tie it up at 3-3. While Azarenka was continually returning with interest, Sharapova often went for too much at times and a little less aggression may have seen her carve out a break point at some stage late.
As it was, she would not get close. Another tough service game was finished off with an ace for 4-4 but she did little to take advantage in the next game so would be forced to serve to stay in the set. After recovering to 30-30 from 0-30 she would tamely hand over a break point for a place in the final. An Azarenka forehand down the line went just wide but it would be second time lucky as Sharapova hit a cross court shot wide to finally succumb to the excellent Azarenka’s onslaught.
After countless matches between these two ending in disappointment, it was nice to see a competitive match with both playing their best tennis at times and producing some incredible shots. This has the makings of a great rivalry in years to come for the WTA if these two can keep up the level shown here.