MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams saved some family pride Wednesday at the Australian Open.
After her older sister Venus' upset loss to
China's Li Na in the previous match on Rod Laver Arena, four-time
champion Serena was down a set and 4-0 in the second before she
rebounded for a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Top-seeded Roger Federer overcame an awkward
start to win 13 straight games and beat Nikolay Davydenko 2-6, 6-3,
6-0, 7-5 to reach the semifinals for a 23rd straight Grand Slam.
"It's incredible, looking back on how many
years that is now, I'm able to deliver at Grand Slam play," Federer
said. "For some reason I was just a bit worried I was not going to make
it this time in the semis.
"Now obviously that it's safe again and I've
been able to add one. Definitely one of the most incredible things I
have in my resume."
Federer's victory snapped a 13-game Davydenko
winning streak after the Russian player won the season-ending ATP World
Finals in November at London and his 20th career title in Doha earlier
"I've played him many times before, and I know
he goes through … some rock-solid phases at times," Federer added. "I
just tried to stay positive."
Novak Djokovic played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the
man he beat for the 2008 Australian Open title, in a later quarterfinal
Wednesday. Andy Murray and Marin Cilic are already through to the semis
from the other half of the draw.
Venus Williams couldn't make it to an expected
sister semifinal, losing in a mistake-filled match featuring a
combined 110 unforced errors against Li.
The result is that Serena will take on Li,
who beat Venus 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5. Justine Henin, playing in her first
Grand Slam tournament in two years after coming back from a two-year
retirement, will play Zheng Jie in the other semifinal.
Serena Williams was far from confident after the first hour of the match, thinking of her sister's loss.
"It was obviously on my mind," Serena said of
Venus' defeat. "I saw maybe one or two points, maybe three. I don't
want to watch too much, I get too nervous watching. Obviously I was
So she started off tentatively.
"I wasn't playing my best, especially in the
first two sets," she said. "I was down the whole match from the first
point. I wasn't surprised but I was definitely shocked."
Instead of wilting, she fought back from her
big deficit in the second set with two service breaks of her own,
easily won the tiebreaker and dominated the third.
"I think it's impressive the way she does it," Azarenka said. "She's a strong girl. She has very powerful shots."
Li and Zheng were the first Chinese pair to
reach the quarterfinals at the same Grand Slam. Add semifinals now, and
could the final be possible?
Serena Williams and Henin, with a combined 18
Grand Slam singles title between them (Serena 11, Henin 7) would seem
to have the inside edge. But Li, who lost the first set and was twice
down breaks in the second, says anything can happen.
"In China, we say if you have tough time and then you return back, maybe have good luck," Li said.
Venus Williams had more mistakes than luck
against Li, who called the win the "best day of my life" and said she
might celebrate with a beer Wednesday night.
"It's important to put the ball in the
court," said Venus Williams, who served for the match in the second
set. "I felt like sometimes I made some errors."
That was an understatement. The pair's
unforced error count went over the 100 mark midway through the final
set, which produced eight service breaks in the first 10 games.
"Unfortunately I let my errors creep in, and
then I allowed her to dictate too much," Williams said. "But she played
Azarenka wilted in her fourth-round match
with Serena here last year, retiring in the second set with a virus
after taking the first set.
This time, the 20-year-old Belarussian was
undone by a trademark comeback by Williams, who is the only player to
save match points on the way to three Grand Slam titles. She did it at
Wimbledon last year and at the 2003 and 2005 Australian Opens.
Initially, Azarenka looked like she'd
continue the Williams family woes. She broke Serena in the opening game
and then, after fending off three break points, held her own opening
serve in a game that lasted more than 15 minutes and went to deuce nine
It was mostly one-way until Williams started
her comeback in the second — winning five straight games and then
getting on top again at the end of the tiebreaker. She dominated the
third set, converting both her break-point chances.
Li, who is forecast to go into the WTA's top
10 rankings after the tournament ends, was dominant in the third set
when it counted against Venus Williams, who has five Wimbledon titles
and two at the U.S. Open.
"I don't like losing at all," Williams said.
"No one does. I put in a lot of hard work to come out here and get a
win [I'm] not at all pleased."
She didn't take kindly to suggestions that grass might be her only Grand Slam title option in the future.
"Like I said so many times before, if I would
have, kind of gotten involved in what people said I would have never
left the ghetto," Williams said. "So here I am playing pro tennis,
playing well. The sky's the limit in this sport. I'm looking for that."
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