Before the Australian Open could even reach its second week, promising tennis stars began making a beeline to the exit door. It started with Serena on Sunday, Maria on Monday, Djokovic, Ferrer and Ana Ivanovic on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning, the defending champion and confident-looking Victoria Azarenka has been done in by the fifth seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. Radwanska played dominant tennis and except the fight in the second set, proceedings went in her favor, with a clinical 6-0 whitewash in the final set. Radawanska had taken the first set too, with relative ease as the score line of 6-1 would indicate. Vika, however, put up a semblance of resistance in the second set, which finished at 7-5 in her favor. The Polish star put a stamp of her authority in the match at the Rod Laver Arena, where a packed crowd watched the helpless second seed, Azarenka being handed her most forgettable career defeat in recent times.
Radawanska was unaffected by the fact that in eleven previous meetings with Azarenka, she had been able to score just the one win. She displayed great maturity all through the match and made her victory only too deserving against her more famous opponent on Wednesday. This will be the 25-year old Radawanska’s first ever semifinal at the Australian Open.
The Pole ransacked Vika’s defenses in taking the first set 6-1 in a mere 33 minutes. Though Vika produced 10 winners, she committed 17 unforced errors to allow Radawanska to race through the first set. In the second set too, Radawanska was able to make an early break but Vika momentarily raised her game and through a break opportunity, clawed back to a 6-5 lead. At this juncture, she composed herself and by winning the second set 7-5, leveled the score 1-1. In the third set, the first game went a long way, with a hard-fought tussle, but battle of wits was finally won by Radawanska 1-0. After this, it was a runaway victory for the polish girl, who didn’t allow Vika any points and won the set 6-0.
Radawanska’s semifinal opponent will be Dominika Cibulkova, who produced another power-packed performance to brush aside Romania’s Simons Halep 6-3, 6-0. In the process, Cibulkova proved that her upset victory over Maria Sharapova on Monday was not a mere fluke. It was the 22-year old Halep’s first major match in a Grand Slam event and she didn’t look very comfortable against the pint-sized and yet mightily strong Cibulkova. Once the match began, the 24th seed Slovakian started dictating terms. Cibulkova doesn’t have a great serve in tennis but she more than makes it up by her powerful all-court game. She played from inside the baseline and produced a series of breathtaking forehand and backhand volleys in the rallies against Halep. The important thing going in Cibulkova’s favor was her superb confidence and single-minded focus in the match.
Radawanska and Cibulkova have a head-to-head record of 5-1, in Radawanska’s favor but Cibulkova is not worried about it. The only thing she knows is that the match will not be easy. It is important that the two women stay focused and play their natural game. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they will be meeting after handing out defeats to their more celebrated opponents. With 1-2-3 gone in the women’s field, no. 4 Li Na is the top most seed left with no. 5, Radawanska right behind. But it will be a folly to disregard Cibulkova, the little bundle of high energy and the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. Any of these four, could be holding the women’s crown on Saturday.