On Tuesday, it was Novak Djokovic losing to Stanislas Wawrinka. A day later, Agnieszka Radwanska ensured that there would be no repeat winner on the men's or women's side at the 2014 Australian Open.
Forcing second-seeded Victoria Azarenka into a series of unforced errors, No. 5 Radwanska dominated in the first and third set in her 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 victory over the two-time defending champion Down Under at Rod Laver Arena.
Azarenka, who had won 18 straight at the Australian Open coming into Wednesday's match, folded almost from the outset. She made 47 unforced errors, including a match-high 17 in the first set, and struggled all day to win her first service points.
A heavy underdog, Radwanska managed to looked far more like the former champion, ignoring the well-publicized screams of Azarenka and winning half of her receiving points. The 24-year-old Poland native, who at one point had to come from down a set in Round 3 versus Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, did a great job on her own service points, allowing Azarenka only five break opportunities in the entire match.
"I said to myself one day I have to have one step forward and do the semifinal, and I'm so, so happy that I did it finally," said Radwanska, who is making her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance, per John Pye of the Associated Press.
The tone for the match was set early on, as a shell-shocked Australian crowd watched Radwanska break Azarenka's serve and spirit in the first set. Radwanska needed only 33 minutes to score a 6-1 first-set victory. Placing the ball brilliantly on serves, Radwanska opted for the serve-and-volley game over pushing aggressively and watched Azarenka shoot herself in the foot with unforced errors.
Even when Azarenka was playing well, as she was during this deuce volley in the first set, Radwanska would find a way to make the shot necessary to win the point:
The second set proved far more competitive, with Azarenka failing to show quit despite losing a set for the first time all tournament. She played to serve and took advantage of some sloppy first serves from Radwanska, eventually breaking the upstart in the 12th game to earn a third set.
Fans witnessed quintessential Australian Open tennis from Azarenka in that middle set, as she hit 16 of her 33 winners to make up for an abundance of disconcerting unforced errors.
After earning that final set, however, it seemed all the fight had been drained out of the defending champion. Only the first game was even remotely competitive, before Radwanska dominated the court en route to a 32-minute goose egg.
In what might have been the most flawless stretch of her career, Radwanska committed only three unforced errors in the third set. She had a double-fault, but Azarenka tripled that total and was visibly a combination of gassed and upset as the set wore on. The former world No. 1 had no answer for Radwanska's efficient net game and strong forehand, but denied that she was "angry" with her play.
"She played well," Azarenka said. "I don't think I played my best tennis, but it didn't make me angry."
Overall, Radwanska's sheer domination seems par for the course in an Australian Open that's been filled to the brim with upsets. Djokovic's elimination Tuesday rendered him unable to secure a fourth straight title in Melbourne, and Azarenka's fellow favorite, Serena Williams, was ousted in the fourth round by Ana Ivanovic.
Radwanska and fourth-seeded Li Na are now joined in the semifinals by No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 30 Eugenie Bouchard, a combination that no one likely saw coming. Radwanska has defeated Cibulkova in five of her six opportunities, but the Slovak has already taken down Maria Sharapova and looked stellar against Simona Halep in the quarters.
She at least has as much of a chance as Radwanska did coming in versus Azarenka, to whom she had lost all but three of their 16 previous matches. It's pure parity on the women's side of the 2014 Australian Open. Radwanska just needs to hope that the upset trend stopped with her.
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