x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Serena too strong for Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka had every reason to believe that she could go out and beat Serena Williams on Centre Court yesterday.

LONDON // Victoria Azarenka had every reason to believe that she could go out and beat Serena Williams on Centre Court yesterday. The Belarusian had shocked the world No 2 in the final of the Miami tournament in April and she had taken the first set in their clash at this year's Australian Open before retiring in the second set. But Azarenka, considered the leader of the new wave of talent coming through in the women's game, had to bow to the sheer power and brilliance of the 10-time grand-slam winner who looked more determined than ever as she seeks a third title here.

The seventh seed performed nobly and played her part in producing some entertaining tennis but whatever questions she asked, Serena had emphatic answers, including three aces in a row when her serve came under pressure for the first time. Serena's serve came under even more pressure when Azarenka broke her midway through the second set but the response was instant - a break back, holding the next game to love and then breaking again to be in a position to serve out for a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

The second-seeded American now takes on Elena Dementieva, the world No 4, who has arrived almost unnoticed into her second successive semi-final here but has done so with distinction having won all 10 of the sets she has played. The Russian sprinted off the Court One starting blocks to claim the first five games against unseeded Italian Francesca Schiavone and never looked back as she coasted to a 6-2, 6-2 victory in 66 minutes.

Asked whether she would have preferred to have been given a stiffer test in one of her matches, she admitted: "Yes, I wish I would have had to fight a little bit more but it's good to conserve energy, especially when you are preparing to play somebody as strong as Serena. I am sure it will be a tough challenge for me against Serena as she likes to play on grass." wjohnson@thenational.ae