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Azarenka Bypasses Clijsters to Advance to the Semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open

Tonight, two Sony Ericsson Open champions collided for a spot in the semifinals. Victoria Azarenka the 2009 champion brushed aside 2005 and defending champion Kim Clijsters 6-3, 6-3 to reach her first semifinal of the season.

Clijsters’ fourth round match against Ana Ivanovic was rescheduled from Monday to Tuesday due to rain. Then, the Belgian had to overcome a 1-5 deficit in the third set to make it to the quarterfinals. Consequently, it was anyone’s guess what physical and emotional toll this would have.

At 1 all, Clijsters committed an error to give Azarenka break point. The Belarusian converted when Clijsters sent a backhand long. Azarenka then comfortably consolidated for a 3-1 edge.

Yet, with Azarenka pushing a forehand long, Clijsters had triple break point. The Belgian capitalized when Azarenka threw in her second double fault of the game.

At that point, Clijsters seemed over her lackadaisical start. However, after having double game point, Clijsters dumped a backhand pass into the net to give Azarenka break point. As a result of a miscue from Clijsters, Azarenka took the game and consolidated for 5-3.

Breaking Clijsters for the third time, Azarenka bagged the opening set.

Subsequent to a quick hold, on a double fault by Clijsters, Azarenka had her second break point of the second set. Azarenka moved in front 2-0 when Clijsters’ forehand landed out of play.

Still, Clijsters fought back breaking right away. Again though after having game point, Clijsters was broken. Azarenka duplicated that achievement Clijsters’ next service game to jump ahead 5-1.

With Azarenka serving, Clijsters dismissed two match points and broke. Clijsters shrunk the gap to 5-3.

At this point, the crowd was still spurring Clijsters on hoping for a repeat of yesterday’s miracle. However, Azarenka would not be denied. On her third match point opportunity, Azarenka sealed the deal.

After the match, Clijsters was asked about what went wrong “Obviously, tonight was going to be very tough. I just didn’t feel good out there mentally, physically, [it] didn’t feel right”.

Whether it could have been too much tennis? Clijsters replied “I don’t know, a combination of a few things. . . Tough last few days, but not in a way that I should not be ready for that. I train hard enough. . . I just didn’t have any fighting spirit. It’s obviously tough against someone like her. Against some lower ranked players maybe it’s possible to get through matches”.

Azarenka had played Clijsters five times prior with only one win. Therefore, MiamiTennisNews inquired what was the difference today. Azarenka responded “ I played a little bit more aggressive. I tried to come in more. That was the biggest difference and physically I was much more stable today”.

Azarenka had a huge lead in the second set in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2010 but found herself on the losing end against Serena Williams. When Clijsters got to 3-5, wanted to know if Azarenka had any flashback to the Melbourne match.

Azarenka said “not at all. I don’t care what happened before, I try to forget. I learn from those things and forget them. I was just focused on each point. I don’t really look at the score much. You have to keep going until a chair umpire says, game, set, match.”

Also, Azarenka emphasized “the way tennis is, you can be up 51, match points, have an [easy] ball and still lose the match. So, you have to be really focused on the present moment, not what happened before”.

In the first quarterfinal of the day, Vera Zvonareva vanquished Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3. Zvonareva’s last semifinal in Miami was in 2008.

The eight times that Zvonareva and Azarenka have played, the former has come up victorious on six occasions. What will Azarenka have to do differently? She cited “I will have to play on a high level, because she’s a very consistent player. . . I will definitely have to be aggressive and focused on my game to play forward and have fun”.

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