Kerber shocks Azarenka, Konta beats Zhang to reach AusOpen semifinals
Catch up on all of the action, news and results from the final day of quarterfinals matches at the 2016 Australian Open on Wednesday that you may have missed while you were sleeping.
Angelique Kerber had never beaten Victoria Azarenka in six career meetings dating back to 2012, but the No. 7-seed played an aggressive match in the quarterfinals in Melbourne on Wednesday to defeated the two-time Australian Open champion 6–3, 7–5.
Kerber won five consecutive games in the second set and saved five set points to claw her way back from 2-5. The German broke Azarenka's serve to end the match and beat her for the first time in seven career matches.
“I was playing my game from the first point,” Kerber said after the match. “Also when I was down 2-5, I was actually playing more aggressive on this time….I served very well and was moving good. I think the key from this match was that I was playing and I won the match. She doesn't lose it; I actually won it.”
Kerber is into her first Australian Open semifinal and her third career Slam semifinal, but she almost didn’t make it past the first round, facing a match point against Misaki Doi in her opening match before prevailing 6–7(4), 7–6(6), 6–3.
In terms of rankings, No. 7-seed Kerber’s win over No. 14-seed Azarenka was not a typical upset, but considering Azarenka’s recent form and the pair’s head-to-head history, it was certainly significant. Azarenka had not lost a set coming into Wednesday’s match and was on a nine-match win streak since the beginning of the season, winning the title in Brisbane where she beat, coincidentally, Kerber, in straight sets in the final.
“I think I was a little bit too flat today. I obviously didn't start great. For me personally, it was a little bit 10% not enough of everything,” Azarenka said after the match. “My footwork didn't have enough. My shots didn't have enough. I felt I did a little bit too many unforced errors in the key moments. I created a lot of opportunities, but then I was not enough on my opportunities. I didn't take them. I had plenty.
“You know, that's not going to win matches in quarterfinals. You have to bring it, and I didn't.”
With Kerber down two breaks in the second set, it seemed as though the match would mimic the pair’s last Grand Slam meeting—a three-hour, three-set marathon match where Azarenka ultimately prevailed. But Kerber steadied, and after leveling the match at 5-5, rode her momentum to the final point where she broke Azarenka’s serve, hitting a cross-court backhand at the net to seal the win.
“I'll be disappointed. I should be disappointed,” Azarenka said after the loss. “But if it's going to carry on? No. It's going to be forgotten tomorrow. I have improved so much from last year….I'm in the right direction. I just need to keep going that way and work harder, be as professional as I am. I don't feel that I've done anything wrong in my preparation. It's just today I didn't push myself enough.”
Kerber will face Johanna Konta in Thursday’s semifinals after the British sensation defeated Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang 6–4, 6–1.
A year ago Konta lost in the first round of Australian Open qualifying and had never even played a main draw match in Melbourne until this year’s tournament. Now, the 24-year-old is the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 1983 and the first to reach the Australian Open semifinals since 1977.
"I felt I did quite a good job of removing any sort of occasion from the match," Konta said after the match. "I really just took it as tennis match and I was competing against a really good opponent. I just wanted to make sure I was executing to the best of my ability what I wanted to get done out there. I felt I did that."
Zhang also had an impressive run in Melbourne. Ranked No. 133, she was 0–14 in Grand Slams before this run and was even considering retirement before the tournament. After three wins in qualifying and a victory over No. 2-seed Simona Halep, Zhang said she was happy to make it as far as she did and credited Konta for her performance on Wednesday.
“Today congrats she play so well. And very big serve,” Zhang said. “I already try my best, but it's so tough. Yeah, she play so well….Everything feeling very slow on court…But in my heart I'm feeling I already win the tournament because I win seven match. Doesn't matter win, lose today, just keep going.”
With her win, Konta is in the second woman in three years to recach the Australian Open semifinals after losing in the qualifying rounds the year before (Bouchard in 2014) and she will have a chance to make her first Slam final against Kerber.
"I'm incredibly humble and grateful for the position that I'm in," Konta said. "Trust me, I understand how much this means to my family, to the people that have stuck by me through years and years and years of ups and downs. But in terms of what it means to me, I'm just so happy that I'm enjoying what I'm doing. That is me living my dream. You know, yeah, when I was a little girl I dreamt of winning Grand Slams and being No. 1 in the world. That dream stays the same I think as long as you're doing the career that you're on."
Snapshots from the quarterfinals on Day 10