Thursday, January 28, 2010

Back from the dead - Day 10

Serena Williams' torrid start to her quarter-final with Victoria Azarenka which saw her a set and 4-0 down in the 2nd, almost condemned her to a humiliating defeat. She later admitted that she thought about returning home by Friday - but something seemed to click as she went on from that perilous position to win 12 of the next 15 games to stun her Belarussian opponent into submission. The final score read 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 to Serena and she was just thankful to have risen from the dead and still remain in the competition.

Azarenka was the overwhelmingly better player for a set and a half, and she must have wondered how on earth the match slipped from her grasp. Serena is famed as a fighter who never gives up the ghost and she demonstrated her battling qualities most admirably in front of a rapturous Rod Laver arena crowd.

The American was not the only one flirting with disaster on the Rod Laver arena. Swiss champion Roger Federer, playing after that ladies' singles contest, looked lethargic and completely vacant of ideas as he gave away the first set 6-2 with a flurry of errors from his racquet. After taking an unusually early bathroom break, he found himself behind again, this time dangerously trailing 1-3 in the 2nd. The Federer camp was worried, Mirka appeared to be having a migraine. But as soon as the sunlight disappeared from the court as afternoon turned into evening, Federer quickly clicked into gear and amazingly won the next 13 straight games to stun Davydenko and race into a commanding lead. He restricted the Russian to a measly 7 points in the entire 3rd set, such was Federer's domination.

The momentum had swung briskly and although Davydenko thwarted Federer's efforts to serve for the match at 5-4 with some remarkable returns and winners, the Swiss broke back immediately and made no mistake at the second time of asking. Nikolay Davydenko mentioned how he now believes he can beat Federer - but believing is one thing, actually transferring that faith into reality is an entirely different proposition.

The Swiss master has sent out a warning - his 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 triumph over the No.1 in-form player in the world should have rivals questioning their supposed belief in gaining his scalp. The best it seems they could hope for, is for the Sun to hang over centre court after hours, and that's asking for the impossible. Roger Federer has most certainly not finished yet.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in his match with 3rd seed Novak Djokovic, traded tiebreaks before losing the 3rd set, a 6-1 scoreline in favour of the Serbian. However, as Djokovic began to wilt with a stomach complaint and physical exhaustion, Tsonga looked as fresh in the 5th as he did in the 1st. The Frenchman prevailed 7-6, 6-7, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. But he will need more than fitness when he takes on Federer in the semis.

Li Na made it two Chinese ladies in the Australian Open semi-finals when she came back from the brink to eliminate Venus Williams. A set down and with the American serving for the match, Li Na hung on, hitting some wonderful groundstrokes, and eventually came through a close final set to join compatriot Zheng Jie in the last four.

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