Azarenka marches on
Victoria Azarenka survived a second set slump to oust defending champion Kim Clijsters.
Last Updated: 26/01/12 7:44am
Victoria Azarenka survived a second set slump to oust defending champion Kim Clijsters and reach the final at the Australian Open.
Clijsters fought hard but Azarenka's bludgeoning ground strokes proved too much as the Belarusian won 6-4 1-6 6-3 after two hours and 12 minutes of absorbing tennis.
Azarenka also had to come through some nervy moments in the final stages as Clijsters attempted to take the match to the wire but she did so impressively to set up a meeting with either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova in Saturday's final.
"I felt like my hand weighed about 200kg and my body was 1000kg, everything was shaking but that feeling when you finally win is such a relief, I just want to cry," she said.
"I was just trying to stay in the moment.
"Kim really took over in the second set and I felt there was nothing I could do. In the third I just tried to let my shots go a little bit.
"I am really glad that I fought for every ball."
On her improved mental attitude, she joked: "I think before you all thought I was a mental case but I was just young and emotional."
Azarenka was outstanding in the early exchanges, her greater weight of shot pushing Clijsters further behind the baseline and she was quick to punish the short ball.
She broke for a 2-1 lead and overcame some uncertain moments on serve and a noisy flypast to celebrate Australia Day to see out the set.
The second was a complete contrast as Azarenka started to throw in numerous unforced errors and the experienced Clijsters seized her chance, winning it in 36 minutes to level matters.
Previously that would have signalled the beginning of the end for Azarenka but she displayed her new-found mental fortitude to claim a 4-1 lead despite Clijsters' best efforts.
The four-time grand slam champion was staring down the barrel at 4-2 40-0 down but in a courageous last stand hit back to break and get it back on serve.
But again, Azarenka stood firm, a crushing forehand seeing her break back and she served it out.