Venus out as China boasts two women in last four

You learn never to write off Serena Williams, but the American produced a comeback here today remarkable even by her own standards. Victoria Azarenka was leading their Australian Open quarter-final by a set and 4-0 before Williams finally got her game together to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. The world No 1 had been on course for a semi-final showdown with her sister, Venus, but instead she will play Li Na, who joins her fellow Chinese, Zheng Jie, in the last four. Li beat Venus 2-6, 7-6, 7-5.

Serena, who is aiming to win the title here for a fifth time, had not dropped a set or been broken in 31 service games in her four previous matches before today. Azarenka, however, broke serve in the very first game and went on to make five breaks before Williams finally pulled herself together.

Azarenka, 20, is one of the emerging talents in the women’s game. The world No 7 had Williams in trouble in the fourth round here a year ago but had to retire through illness and heat exhaustion midway through the second set. The Belorussian won 24 of her first 26 matches in a superb run at the start of last year, which led to her breaking into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

For a set and a half Williams appeared to have no answer to Azarenka’s bold ground strokes, but rediscovered her poise when two games away from defeat. The American won a hard-fought game at 0-4 and then won five games in a row before Azarenka halted the slide. The set went into a tie-break, which Williams won 7-4.

The world No 1, who again played with plenty of strapping on her left knee and right thigh, broke Azarenka to love in the third game of the decider and promptly ran away with the set.

"She was playing so well,” Williams said afterwards. “I was down 0-4 and I thought I had nothing to lose and I just started finally making my shots. I didn't serve well in the first set and a half and when my serve is off it makes my whole game off."

Williams added: "I'm surprised. I didn't expect to win when I was down in the second set. I thought if I lost the singles and the doubles, I could catch a flight on Friday. It's not what a champion is supposed to think, but I did."

Roles were reversed for sister Venus, who won the first set with something to spare and served for the match against Li at 5-4 in the second set, only to let victory slip from her grasp. The match was littered with breaks of serve, but Williams appeared to have done enough until four unforced errors enabled Li to level at 5-5 in the second set. It went into a tie-break, which the No 16 seed won 7-4 to take the match into a decider.

The contest took another turn when Venus went into a 2-0 lead in the third set, but Li broke back during a sequence of six successive breaks of serve. Li failed to serve out at 5-4, but at 5-5 Williams was broken once again. This time there was no way back as Li secured victory with a big forehand winner on her third match point. Li described it as “the best day of my whole life”.

Williams, who has not progressed past the last eight here since 2003, said she found her defeat hard to explain. "I think I just started rushing my shots a little too much instead of just taking my time and really just hitting a clean ball," she said. "Sometimes I was able to back off. But, you know, sometimes it's so easy to get so eager.

"In tennis you have to close it out. It's not like there's a clock ticking and then suddenly it's over. You just have to close it out. I didn't do that today."

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s semi-final against Li, Serena said: "I have played her a few times and she has beaten me once. I know her game well and the way I feel, I have nothing to lose."


Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent