Serena defeats Azarenka in three sets to advance to Wimbledon semifinals

Tuesday July 7th, 2015

LONDON – Follow along below for live updates of the Wimbledon 2015 quarterfinal matchup between No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 23 Victoria Azarenka.

Serena leads their head-to-head 16-3 but there's something about the match-up against Azarenka that puts her on edge. Azarenka has yet to lose a set or lose more than four games in a single set, booking her quarterfinal spot with a 6–2, 6–3 win over No. 30 Belinda Bencic on Monday. A two-time semifinalist at Wimbledon, the former No. 1 has pushed Serena to the brink in their last two matches. During the clay season, Azarenka had match points and could've handed Serena her first loss of the year in Madrid. Then at the French Open, she led by a set and a break before losing 3–6, 6–4, 6–2 in the third round. 

"The key is for me, I still need to find it because I haven't beat her in the Grand Slam," Azarenka said. "So for me, I still have to find that extra step to go a little bit further."

"I've had a couple of tough matches with Victoria," Serena said. "It doesn't matter who I play, I'm going to be ready. I'm going to have to be ready. She's due to win big and to do really well. Incidentally, so am I."

Serena is coming off her best performance of the tournament, a 6–4, 6–3 win over her sister Venus. Every aspect of Serena's game was firing on Monday and she showed why, even if she has not made it past the quarterfinals since 2012, she is always the favorite at Wimbledon. She fired 10 aces and 36 winners to just 13 unforced errors against Venus. Her return game, which should decide her match-up against Azarenka, was on fire. She got 70% of her returns back in play, zinging five for clean winners.

Serena Williams d. Victoria Azarenka 3–6, 6–2, 6–3 to advance to Wimbledon semifinals.

Set 3: Serena Williams, 6–3. 

For a second it looked like Azarenka's intensity and fight would pay off. She earned a break point in Serena's final service game but the American wipes it out with her 17th ace of the match. She then cleans it up and seals the match to book her first Wimbledon semifinal since 2012. She'll face No. 4 Maria Sharapova, against whom she has not lost in over a decade. 
Nice hug at the net between Serena and Azarenka. They battled hard out there and the intensity was through the roof. 
The women's semifinals are now set for Thursday:
Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Garbine Muguruza

6:37 p.m.,Serena holds, leads 5-2*.

Serena pushes her stat-line to 41 winners and 9 unforced errors, with 14 aces to boot. As Azarenka scraps to protect her serve and hold to keep within shouting distance, Serena calmly fires three aces and puts away a forehand to hold serve in one minute and 15 seconds. Federer-esque. 

6:29 p.m., Serena holds, leads 4-1*.

Azarenka is trying to pump herself up. After fighting through a deuce game to hold to 1-3, she screams at herself to keep fighting. The shouts of "Fight!" and "Come on!" keep going even after the crowd noise dies down and you know Serena can hear it all. Her response? Four near-perfect serves and a love service hold, all while yelling "Come on!" after each. 

6:24 p.m., Serena breaks and leads 3-0*.

That's seven straight games to Serena. The errors are coming more frequently off Azarenka's racket and Serena is dialed in. This final set could go quick. Serena has over 30 winners already in the match. 

Set 2: Serena Williams, 6-2.


Shaun Botteril/Getty Images)

6:10 p.m., Serena wins the second set 6-2.

How do you beat a Serena who hits 17 winners to just 3 unforced errors in that second set? That's what Azarenka will have to try and solve. She has to be frustrated. As much as that scoreline would suggest Serena ran away with that set, she didn't. The last five service games of that set went to deuce and they could have gone either way. Azarenka can look back at the backhand she took cross-court when down break point at 2-3 and the forehand down the line she missed on her own break point the very next game as two swings of the racket that could have flipped the scoreline. 
Here we go. Can Serena keep up that level? Can Azarenka raise her own

6:02 p.m., Serena saves two break points to hold, leads 5-2*.

Azarenka has two break points to get back into the set but can't convert. She misses an easy forehand down the line on the first and then Serena saves the second with an overhead smash. Again, that missed forehand was a huge opportunity missed by Azarenka, who has said many times after losses to Serena that it's all about taking those opportunities when you have them. Serena won't give you too many openings. 

5:59 p.m., Serena BREAKS, leads *4-2.

There are always a handful of points that end up coming back to haunt Azarenka. She was unable to convert that break point in the last game—though that wasn't her fault; Serena played a great point—but on break point for Serena, Azarenka has the open court to push a mid-court backhand down the line. She goes cross-court right back at Serena and the American sticks the pass to break. 

5:47 p.m., Serena saves break point to hold, leads 3-2*.

Again, if you're reading the momentum of the match it's firmly with Azarenka. She has a look at a break point but Serena saves it with a 102 mph second serve down the tee followed by a forehand drive winner. That's gutsy stuff. 

5:45 p.m., Azarenka saves break points to hold, tied 2-2.

Azarenka somehow finds a way to keep Serena at bay throughout a six-deuce game that sees her save three break points with some clutch placement on her serves. That might have been the best single game of tennis played at The Championships so far. As Serena grew in intensity and started smacking returns for winners, you expected Azarenka to blink. She never did. 

That was a huge opportunity for Serena to jump on top of Azarenka early here. It might have been the most important game of the match. 

5:30 p.m., Serena holds, leads 2-1*. 

How does Serena respond? By picking up the intensity. It's getting loud out there. 

The second set opens with Serena serving first. The two exchange holds with Serena holding a 2-1 lead on the changeover. Azarenka has a look at 30-all in Serena's second service game, but the American lets out a huge roar after winning a tough 15-shot rally—that's the longest exchange of the match by far—and then holds at 30. 
Incidentally, Venus is in Serena's box. Nice to see her sticking around. 

Set 1: Victoria Azarenka wins, 6–3.

After a few technical difficulties, we continue our live blog here. Keep following, because this is a match you don't want to miss.

How the first set unfolded: After a nervy start in her opening service game, Azarenka played a near-perfect set. Serena's return game hasn't been great so far today and she couldn't jump on Azarenka's serve, which should be there for Serena to hit. 

Azarenka faced just one break point and otherwise kept things clean, hitting 8 winners to 3 unforced errors. To give you an idea of how slim the margins were in that set, Serena hit 11 winners and 4 unforced errors. That's statistically a strong set from Serena, but as opposed to their last few meetings, Azarenka was the one winning the key points. In the one area that Azarenka can do damage—her return—the former No. 1 couldn't have asked for better. She saw four break points and converted just the one to give her the lead she needed.
How will Serena handle the pressure? 

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images


SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.