22nd January, 2014
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka was bundled out of the Australian Open in the quarter-finals on Wednesday by fifth seed Agnieszka Radwansa in another big tournament upset.
The determined Pole battled to a 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 win to send the Belarusian packing with the top three seeds now out of the Grand Slam following the defeats of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
It was a major scalp for Radwanska, who had lost all seven previous meetings with the Belarusian, and now goes into a semi-final with Slovak 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova.
The win also ensures the tournament will have a new champion with none of the semi-finalists — Radwanska, Cibulkova, Li Na and Eugenie Bouchard — having won before.
“It is always hard against her. I have lost so many times that (I knew) I had to play aggressive and go for my every shot. That’s what I tried to do and it worked today,” she said.
One of Radwanska’s biggest challenges was to block out Azarenka’s grunting, which has frustrated her in the past.
It came to a head in Dubai in 2012 when the Pole said she was “angry” and had “lost a lot of respect” for the Belarusian because of the noise coming out of her.
Fairfax Media said it had recorded a 90 decibel grunt in Azarenka’s first round match — louder even than renowned shrieker Sharapova.
Whatever the reason, Radwanska has always struggled against her. The pair, both 24, had met 15 times before with the Belarusian leading 12-3, winning their last seven meetings.
But the dam finally broke as Radwanska battled into her first semi-final in Melbourne, having made the quarter-finals four times before without going further.
Azarenka later admitted she lacked focus during the match.
The second seed, who won the last two tournaments at Melbourne Park, made 47 unforced errors as her game was taken apart by aggressive fifth seed Agnieszka Radwansa in another big tournament upset.
“The first set and the third set, I think there were just too many mistakes and too many easy mistakes on important moments,” she said.
“She was passing amazing today and getting to every ball.
“But I just didn’t have the focus on finishing the points. That definitely changed the momentum. She really took advantage of that. It was hard to come back.
“My game wasn’t there today as I wanted it to be.”
In the earlier match, Slovakian underdog Dominika Cibulkova won the mental battle against 11th seed Simona Halep to storm into only her second Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open Wednesday.
The 20th seed, in her best performance at Melbourne Park, marched past the Romanian 6-3, 6-0 and will play Agnieszka Radwanska.
The short but energetic Cibulkova drew on her experience to down the aggressive baseliner, who went into the clash as favourite after a breakthrough season last year when she won six titles.
The Slovak, who beat Maria Shaparova to get her chance against Halep, is now in her second career Grand Slam semi-final in 26 attempts, with the last one coming at the French Open in 2009.