Azarenka, the No. 3 seed at Roland Garros, was nearly upended by Kirilenko, who gave her quite the scare. The two went back and forth throughout the first set and needed a tiebreak to determine the winner.
After Azarenka clinched the first set, momentum carried her through the second, which was much less competitive.
Serves played an important role in this matchup, with Azarenka being much more successful than Kirilenko in this area. Kirilenko committed five double faults and only had a 57 percent first-serve percentage, compared to Azarenka’s two double faults and 78 percent first-serve percentage.
Azarenka was a much better in the second set and that’s where she showed why she’s the No. 3 seed in the tournament. The first set, while greatly testing her abilities, could have gone either way. If she didn’t win the first set, things might not have panned out as they did in the second.
Prior to the quarterfinals, Azarenka had cruised through the first four rounds. She won every match in straight sets, with the exception of a third-round victory over Alize Cornet that took a third set. Kirilenko, the No. 12 seed, was the toughest opponent Azarenka has faced to this point in the tournament.
With Azarenka’s victory over Kirilenko, she now advances to the French Open semifinals for the first time in her career. In seven appearances at Roland Garros, she had made it to the quarterfinals a pair of times, but fell in each match. She had been knocked out in the fourth round twice and the first round the other four times.
In the semifinals, Azarenka will face Maria Sharapova, the No. 2 seed, who defeated Jelena Jankovic Wednesday morning as well. The two have played each other 12 times over the course of their career, with Azarenka leading the head-to-head series, 7-5. Sharapova, however, won the only contest on clay.
The other semifinal matchup is between Serena Williams, the No. 1 seed at Roland Garros, and Sara Errani, the No. 5 seed. Azarenka has really struggled against Williams in the past (2-12, 0-3 on clay), but has been great against Errani (6-1, 4-0 on clay). If she were to advance, she’d hope to face Errani to say the least, though that would be a major surprise.
Azarenka is seeking the third Grand Slam victory of her career, winning the Australian Open this year and in 2012. Winning the title at Roland Garros is far from a guarantee, but showing the ability to fight through tough times against Kirilenko makes her a strong candidate.