Sloane Stephens beat Serena Williams on Wednesday. Source: Getty Images/heraldsun.com.au
World number one Victoria Azarenka takes on rising star Sloane Stephens in the second Australian Open Women’s semi-final on Thursday, as she continues the defence of the crown that she won twelve months ago. While this is the fourth time that the Belarusian has reached the final four in her past five Grand Slam tournaments, it is American teenager Stephens maiden journey beyond the fourth round at any of the ‘Majors’.
Azarenka has had a relatively easy run to the last final and is yet to face a seeded player at the tournament, although she locked horns with former world number two Svetlana Kuznetsova in her last match. After a hard fought opening, the Belarusian eventually triumphed 7-5 in the first set before closing the match out by taking the second 6-1. Azarenka’s straight sets win was her fourth in five matches at Melbourne Park, with Jamie Hampton the only player to take a set off her. Her dominance is further reflected by the fact that the top seed has won five of her ten sets 6-1 , including three of the past four.
Sloane Stephens has been forced to work hard to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time after coming from a set down to seal victory over her idol Serena Williams. Although the fifteen time Grand Slam winner was obviously hampered by injury, Stephens was still ultra-impressive and her powerful groundstrokes could trouble her opponent. After winning her opening three matches at the tournament in straight sets, the 29th seed has had to dig deep in her past two matches, defeating both Williams and Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in three sets .
Despite dropping the first set against Serena, Sloane Stephens didn’t appear to be overawed by the occasion on Rod Laver Arena and should be uninhibited against Azarenka. Ultimately though, it could be the world number one’s experience and consistency that wins the day.
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