x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Safina advances to the semi-finals

Top seed Dinara Safina comes from a set down to defeat 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka to reach the French Open semi-finals.

The number one seed Dinara Safina keeps her eye on the ball as she returns a forehand at Roland Garros.
The number one seed Dinara Safina keeps her eye on the ball as she returns a forehand at Roland Garros.

Top seed Dinara Safina came from a set down to defeat 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka and reach the French Open semi-finals. The Russian was given the runaround in the first set and was at one stage being held at 4-4 in the second, but recovered her poise to a 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory on the Philippe Chatrier court. She will play either Maria Sharapova or Dominika Cibulkova in the semi-finals and remains the title favourite after coming through her toughest match this tournament. Ninth seed Azarenka, playing her first grand-slam quarter-final, had beaten Safina at Indian Wells earlier this year and had also won three titles in 2009, in Brisbane, Memphis and Miami. She was therefore not overawed in the slightest and played an almost perfect first set, which lasted just 23 minutes.

Azarenka broke to 15 in the very first game and went 4-1 up when she grabbed a break on Safina's third service game. The Belarusian was prospering under blue skies, her length and nagging consistency troubling Safina, who dropped her serve again in game seven to hand Azarenka the set. Early in the second set, Safina suddenly found the form that had seen her lose just five games in her run to the quarters. She broke in the third and fifth games, and would have been given further encouragement when Azarenka slammed her racket down in disgust the moment she went 4-1 down. The teenager fought back superbly to make it 4-4 but Safina rallied again to break and then hold to take the set.

Azarenka dropped serve in the first game of the third set and the world No 1 Safina, who has yet to win a grand slam, finished the stronger to wrap up victory in an hour and 52 minutes. *PA Sport