Victoria Azarenka sets up final clash against Li Na
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Victoria Azarenka had to endure some anxious moments before and after her win over American teenager Sloane Stephens.
Li Na wasn't flustered at all as she beat No 2-ranked Maria Sharapova.
The result is that Li will play for the Australian Open title against Azarenka, who ended an unexpected run to the semifinals by Stephens that included a quarterfinal upset win over 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.
While Li's 6-2, 6-2 win over Sharapova, who had dropped only nine games in five matches – a tournament record – en route to the semis, never appeared in doubt on Thursday, Azarenka added some intrigue in the second semifinal on Rod Laver Arena.
Azarenka finished off a 6-1, 6-4 over Stephens after a lengthy medical timeout for a rib injury which hindered her breathing. The No. 1-ranked Belarusian player had wasted five match points in the game immediately before the medical time out, then returned to break Stephens' serve to end the match.
"Well, I almost did the choke of the year,'' Azarenka told an on-court interviewer immediately after the match. "At 5-3, having so many chances I couldn't close it out.''
Tournament officials said the tournament doctor reported that Azarenka had left knee and rib injuries.
"I just felt a little bit overwhelmed. I realized I'm one step away from the final and nerves got into me for sure,'' Azarenka said.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer were only one step away from the men's final. They were playing a semifinal later Thursday, with the victor advancing to a final against the winner of Friday's semifinal between Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
In the women's semifinal, there was speculation about the impact of the timing of Azarenka's medical treatment. The 23-year-old Belarusian didn't help her case by saying in a second television interview following the match that she'd had difficulty breathing.