Angelique Kerber finally realized the feeling of revenge feeling sweet at the Australian Open Wednesday afternoon. After losing the last six to Victoria Azarenka in their history, she pulled off a huge upset in the quarterfinals winning 6-3, 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena. Kerber advanced to the semifinals for the first time at the Australian Open making it the third Grand Slam that she has advanced this far.
The two met at the Brisbane final 17 days ago where the Belorussian won the season’s first title of 2016 beating Kerber in straight sets. It was the fourth straight win for Azarenka against her German opponent and hoped to make it five in a row by the day’s end. Both have been on similar paths to get into the top eight but with the semifinals on the line, the two stars would put everything aside to defeat one another.
For Kerber, getting out front was most important in the first set and through the first three games she was perfect. She broke the Belorussian twice while holding her serve in the second getting a big lead against such a strong opponent. Azarenka was doing nothing on the strong side of her game, looking cold out on court struggling to get points. She watched as the German took a commanding 4-0 rout in the set knowing that holding her serve from her on out was at the upmost importance.
She got on the board after 22 minutes winning key point that had her alive through five games of play. She made her comeback successful taking the next two games to sit just one down of tying things with Kerber. The German served in the second going down 40-15 in just a few serves. She came back on two challenges to fight on deuce with Azarenka.
After three breaks, she pushed herself ahead to play for the set with the Belorussian clearly on the ropes. Her triple set point chance disappeared entirely as her opponent charged back late to force deuce. She couldn’t hold things together and ultimately fell out of the set for the first time this tournament.
Kerber was in the drivers seat to the finish line but her opponent would not go quietly. She struck back with two wins showing that her skills were coming together starting the set with a clean board. Kerber held service in the third but still found herself facing the same Azarenka from the Brisbane final. The Belorussian took a 3-1 lead with Kerber striking back to remain within one of level pegging.
Azarenka wasn’t going to let the German get anywhere near her as her 4-2 lead in the set had her working hard to get towards tying the match at one set each. The ball was in her hands to get it done racing to the triple set mark in a flash. An unforced error kept her from a flawless win in the seventh opening the window for Kerber. She came back and forced the Belorussian into deuce where a double fault killed her chance.
Things continued to go badly for Azarenka as Kerber and her strong forehand were dominating under the pressure climbing back in the set. She pulled off the biggest comeback of the match coming down 5-2 to sit leveled with Azarenka and press the set to extra frames. It was now a sign of revenge for Kerber who did everything to beat Azarenka in straight sets. She fired away in the 11th gaining the lead and never looked back as everything that could go wrong with Azarenka’s game did.
In what was the last game before elimination, the Belorussian pressed on but faltered on the unforced errors and long balls. In the span of 1 hour and 45 minutes, the German completed one the biggest upsets of her Grand Slam career putting her into uncharted territory at Melbourne Park. “I was saying to myself just play on your practice court and just go for it, believe that you can beat her and I’m just so happy that I beat her for the first time,” Kerber said to Renae Stubbs after the match.
The comeback in the second set was the biggest moment that changed the tide of the game when it looked as if she and Azarenka would go the full three sets. “I was more aggressive when it was 2-5 but I was just telling myself to forget the score, just play and go for it to play the best you can today.” There hasn’t been a German in the semis at the Australian Open since 1998. With her looking to become the first since Steffi Graff to win the final, she’ll try to do so playing the winner between Johanna Konta and Shuai Zhang.