The S-Thread For 1/22/13: The 2012 Australian Open Day 10 Thread- Quarterfinals Day #2 (Updated Final Version)
Game, Set, Match: Stephens d. S.Williams 3-6, 7-5, 6-4
When the postscript of the 2013 Australian Open women's singles title is written, the fate of the tournament was actually decided in its bridesmaid competition: the women's doubles.
For on Tuesday afternoon, the limits of Serena Williams' chance at pulling off another Grand Slam duel title reached its breaking point and trickled over to Sloane Stephens' biggest win of her young career and the shock result of the tournament.
The physical toll of her doubles loss with sister Venus the prior day caught up to her and lead to the 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory for the 19-year-old upstart, and ended any hopes of holding all four grand Slams for a 2nd time in her career, as well as a calender Grand Slam this year.
The back injury Serena suffered in the second set to go along with her nagging ankle ailment spelled doom for her, even with regaining enough strength on her serve and barely losing any power on her groundstrokes. The sense of doubt because of the ailments would not depart here despite recovering enough to go up 4-3 in the final set.
Nevertheless, credit has to be given to Stephens for regaining her composure after being in shellshock mode by Serena's injury. She regained controlled of her forehand, was competent enough with the defense on her backhand, and displayed why she should be at net more with her quality frontcourt dexterity.
Still, the match was truly not decided by own events, but of the events 24 hours before. It's always a major concern for the top singles players who decide to play doubles as well if they jeopardize their ability to win the individual tournament. The men can't do it considering the best of five set format, but even if it were best of three sets for them like the women, it's easily conceivable that Federer, Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal would stick to just singles like Victoria Azarenka and of course Maria Sharapova. Serena, Sara Errani, and Sam Stosur were the only players in the WTA's Top 10 to play doubles.
The 15 time Grand Slam champion has been fortunate throughout the years, especially last year, for it not to be a problem for her with doubles matches that didn't overextend her (or Venus too for that matter) for singles play.
But her and Venus' inability to close out top seeded duo Errani and Roberta Vinci in straight sets lead to the black spasms, and will now lead into questions on whether she should play doubles with Venus anymore.
She will certainly be adamant on continuing to make her and her sister happy by sticking with the doubles plan, but there has to be some doubt in her mind on how many more times can she do just that.
Tuesday afternoon, Serena Williams served for the match and was primed for the 2nd of her two titles this year in Melbourne. Instead now, on Wednesday afternoon, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are primed for their 2nd Australian Open title overall.
Game, Set, Match: Azarenka d Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1
Svetlana Kuznetsova showed the form of how she is just too much quality of a player to not have at least one legit run back to being an elite player. Unfortunately, her fine 1st set level still wasn't enough to rattle a current elite player that is Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka knew she was in for a prime Kuznetsova, as the Russian definitely had the offensive advantage with a bigger first serve getting her key cheap points to jump to a 4-1 lead. 4 aces in her first 4 services game indicated that maybe Kuznetsova could her serve her way to her first outstanding win in a few years.
But Azarenka was not deterred whatsoever. She raised her level just a notch further by hitting her backhand to the max, solidifying her forehand when she had too, and reading Kuznetsova's serve strongly as the match progressed. And it paid off, as Kuznetsova could only win two more games the rest of the match.
Along with the 1st serve going away for the resurgent Russian, her backhand slowly displayed its streaky ways as well.
It was Azarenka staying strong with a hold to stay in the 1st set and just controlled most of the rallies from then on. Her backhand was brilliant, her forehand was at a solid level, and her movement became impervious until matches end.
Most importantly for Azarenka if she is to face Serena Williams in the semifinals is having a top serving day. Outside of a bad hiccup in the 2nd game of set 2, Azarenka hit her spots enough for decent momentum and confidence. Nevertheless, she had a number of double faults today still, and that has to be absent if she is to get through that likely blockbuster.