GAME SET AND MATCH MARIA SHARAPOVA
Winners/UEs: Azarenka 12-22 & Sharapova 30-26
4-6 2-6 - Sharapova starts well, with an unreturnable serve for 15-0. A backhand down the line goes long once more from Azarenka and Sharapova is now only two points away from the match. Another big serve gets Azarenka tied up and allows Sharapova the easy put away at the net for three match points. She takes the first with a comfortable love hold to move into the final where she faces Serena Williams.
4-6 2-5 - Azarenka needs to hold to stay in the match and starts well, taking the first point but puts too much on the next, as a forehand down the line goes long. She gets to 40-15, but fails to take the first game point as a backhand goes long and the second is saved with Maria pressing more and putting away a drive volley into the open court. Match point is staring her in the face with half an open court to aim a forehand into but she puts it wide and instead it will be game point. Azarenka takes it and will force Sharapova to serve out the match.
4-6 1-5 - Sharapova takes the first point, hitting a speculative backhand pass on the run which Azarenka cannot get to. Azarenka recovers from 30-0 to 30-30, the second point of which was a clean return of serve forehand winner but Sharapova moves to game point with yet another inside out. It is saved but she gets a second with an aggressive second serve with which Azarenka can do little but hit long. Azarenka refuses to go away quietly and saves another game point with a forehand down the line. Ace number 5 brings up game point #3 but this is also not taken. A sixth ace brings up the fourth game point only to double fault it away. More break points and game points come and go before Sharapova finally holds to move one game away from the final against Serena Williams.
4-6 1-4 - Azarenka looks to avoid the bagel and goes 30-0 up quickly but a forehand down the line goes way long to half her lead in the game. A lazy slice attempt leaves Sharapova with the easy backhand down the line put away and she does so with ease for 30-30. The cross court forehand on the run troubles Azarenka who puts another attempted forehand wide rather than down the line. Break point for Sharapova, but it is quickly wiped out as she returns into the net. Azarenka’s first ace of the match gives her game point and she gets the game after Sharapova puts a backhand long.
4-6 0-4 - This time, the net cord benefits Sharapova who sees a Azarenka return taken wide. It’s becoming an error-strewn performance from Azarenka and a love hold from Sharapova ends on an ace.
4-6 0-3 – A net cord once more goes Azarenka’s way, as Sharapova fails to judge the flight of the ball and tamely nets. She loses two straight points to go down 15-30 and the match could go away very quickly at this rate but she hits a forehand winner down the line to make it 30-30. A vicious return from Maria comes back with very little, and she happily swats away into the open court for another break point. A double fault gives Sharapova a double break lead – she surely should be fine from here on. BREAK SHARAPOVA
4-6 0-2 - Azarenka needs to find a way to get back into the match and starts with a winner down the line. Maria’s mental strength against Azarenka in the past has been questioned in the past but she looks assured and in control here, winning the next two points to go 30-15 up only to disappointingly hit a forehand into the net. A late call on a Azarenka error that goes just wide is challenged by the Belarussian but she is disappointed as the outcome of hawkeye is that it was out. Game point for Maria, and she takes it as Azarenka returns wide again.
4-6 0-1 - Sharapova continues to press and creates a major opening at 15-30 after hitting an impressive forehand down the line that Azarenka can do little about and gets two break points when Azarenka nets another backhand. Sharapova does well to retrieve twice and moonballs Azarenka to get back into position, she fails to get much on it and is helpless as Sharapova puts the forehand drive away at the net for the break. BREAK SHARAPOVA
4-6 - Not the ideal start for Sharapova to this service game as she hits long on the opening point, but a backhand goes wide from Azarenka to tie it up at 15-15. Sharapova looks to be in charge and has a great chance of a forehand put away as she closes into the net but puts it wildly wide to go down 15-30. Azarenka completely misses a forehand into the corner and nets a powerful serve as Sharapova brings up set point. Sharapova goes aggressive on second serve but Azarenka is up to the task, forcing the error with a deep return as set point is saved. A second set point comes as Sharapova moves Azarenka around the corner before hitting the forehand into the corner for a clean winner. Sharapova takes the set at the second time of asking as Azarenka hits way long on the return. SET SHARAPOVA
4-5 - Azarenka responds to the task well, holding to love with the help of some big serving. Azarenka plays to the forehand of Sharapova and forces two errors into the net to stay in touching distance in the set.
3-5 - Sharapova takes the first point after Azarenka cannot return a low forehand in court. She fails to get a big Sharapova serve in play as the Russian goes up 30-0 and a powerful second serve is also netted for a 40-0 lead. A double fault sees the first game point go away and a deep return helps Azarenka save the second after Sharapova puts it long. However, she holds serve after an emphatic ace – her second of the match as she forces Azarenka to serve to stay in the set.
3-4 - Azarenka holds comfortably to 15, as Sharapova fails to kick on after an impressive backhand down the line saw her to 15-15. The game ends with Maria netting the backhand return.
2-4 - A much better start for Sharapova as she goes 15-0 up with a angled backhand put away at the net after Azarenka only just gets over the net. Her first ace of the match puts her 30-0 up before she is passed by a running Azarenka for 30-15. The inside-out forehand sets up two game points after she opened up the empty court and holds after a backhand wrong foots Azarenka for the winner.
2-3 - Azarenka puts a backhand into the net to fall down 0-15 as Sharapova reverts back to the aggressive play that saw her break last time. The Sharapova pace is too much for Azarenka again as she nets another backhand and a killer forehand return of serve gives her three break points. Azarenka saves two but fails on the third, hitting a backhand wide as Sharapova breaks once more. BREAK SHARAPOVA
2-2 - Two poor points see Sharapova down 0-30 very quickly, and it turns into 3 break points when Azarenka adjusts well to a net cord deflection and hits the winner down the line. She earns the break when Sharapova hits a backhand into the net on the first break point. BREAK AZARENKA
1-2 – Sharapova forces the issue on the first point and puts away a delicate volley at the net after some great retrieving from Azarenka to get it back in play. She puts a return long once more for 15-15. Azarenka looks to have gone 30-15 up with a well timed drop shot only for Sharapova to excellent retrieve it and put it out of Azarenka’s reach to get a slight opening at 15-30. One forehand goes long to take it to 30-30 but more aggressive player sets up the drive volley for Sharapova who earns her first break point of the match. It goes very quickly as a second serve return goes wide. A wild double fault way long gives her a second chance but it is not converted either as a Sharapova forehand goes wide. After Azarenka nets a gimme drive volley, she follows it up with a wild backhand wide as Sharapova breaks at the third time of asking. BREAK SHARAPOVA
1-1 - Sharapova responds with a hold of her own, but nowhere near as comfortable.. Azarenka hits long at the end of a lengthy rally for 15-0 and quickly moves 30-0 up but is pegged back thanks to a backhand into the net and a double fault long. The threat of a break is soon wiped out, as a big serve sets up the inside out forehand. Azarenka wrong foots Sharapova to get to deuce but two big serves from Sharapova see her hold to 40.
1-0 - Azarenka wins the opening point of the match after Sharapova dumps a forehand into the net. Returns netted and long see Azarenka to 40-0. A wild backhand goes wide from Sharapova as Azarenka holds to love.
Victoria Azarenka will serve first.
Match to begin shortly.
Live Commentary of the WTA Championships 2012 semifinal match between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova will commence here as soon as the players start warming up.
Azarenka leads the head to head with 7-4, having won the last encounter this year in Beijing with a 6-3 6-1 scoreline.
Sharapova has won all of her matches in the group, beating Errani, Radwanska and Stosur on the way to the semis. Azarenka defeated Kerber and Li Na, but lost to Serena Williams.
If Azarenka wins today, it will be her seventieth of the year.