In a tournament already rocked by the early defeats of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic, one wondered about the chances of 11th seeded Simona Halep and 2nd seeded Victoria Azarenka beating their lower ranked opponents on Wednesday.
First up on Rod Laver Arena was Halep, who took on the challenge of 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova who had taken out Sharapova in the quarters. Halep had also beaten a higher ranked player in the quarters, the Serb Jelena Jankovic. This was new ground for the Roumanian, as her best efforts in previous OAs was a third round win. She went out in the first round last year 6-1 6-1, while the Slovak lost in straight sets in the second round last year, but had been to a semi in the French Open in 2008.
Cibulkova ran up a 3-0 lead in just 9 minutes before Halep got a game. The next two games went with serve before Halep, with the Slovak serving into the sun and producing three doubles, broke to trail 3-4. Cibulkova then took the next two games for the set at 6-3 with some stunning tennis. Cibulkova broke in the 1st game of the second set and surged through the set to take it to love with a spectacular display of classy tennis. She will meet Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis.
On the same court Azarenka took on 5th seeded Radwanska and was the clear favourite to win, having a 12-3 winning record against the Pole and having won their last 7 encounters since Sydney in 2012. The Belarusian was the defending champion, while the Pole got to the quarters last year. Radwanska, playing inspired tennis, went 5-0 up against a decidedly off form Azarenka who then got one game before Radwanska wrapped up the set at 6-1. The first two games of the second set were close to 10 minutes long, but both players held. The Pole broke in the 5th game but was broken straight back to love, with Azarenka fighting her hardest. Azarenka broke again when leading 6-5 to take the set 7-5. Radwanska’s magical tennis returned in the decider, which she took to love with a master class of extraordinarily fine tennis.