Azarenka's ailment hands Serena victory
Serena Williams has been handed an easy passage to the quarterfinals of Australian Open 2009 after an ill No. 13 seed Victoria Azarenka retired in disheartening circumstances at Rod Laver Arena on Monday.
The three-time champion had lost the first set 6-3, and despite leading the second 4-2, was having the match taken up to her by the 19-year-old Belarusian.
Both players took a while to find their feet in the swirly conditions, fending off break points and remaining in a deadlock until 3-3.
It was then that Azarenka began to find her rhythm, pushing Williams around the court and hitting with great depth from the baseline.
She managed to break the American’s serve with a backhand winner down the line, holding in the next game for a 5-3 lead and having all the momentum.
Shaken, Williams played a loose game when serving to stay in the set, surrendering 6-3.
Azarenka opened the second with a service game held to love and had three chances to gain a 2-0 lead, but couldn’t crack the stubborn world No. 2 for a third time in the match.
After being broken to fall behind 3-1, it was clear that Azarenka’s energy was disappearing and her footwork disintegrating.
Down 3-2, she left the court on a medical time-out after being physically ill during the change of ends.
Although bravely returning to play the next game-and-a-half, the 19-year-old was visibly distressed and no longer fit to compete, retiring in a flood of tears.
Williams will now play No. 8 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals after Kuznetsova’s opponent Zheng Jie also retired hurt earlier today, with Kuznetsova leading 4-1 in the first set when the Chinese succumbed to a wrist injury.Quick facts
Azarenka served at 82 per cent in the first set, where she hit 13 winners and converted two of three break point opportunities
Williams had 21 unforced errors for the match, while Azarenka had 17
Azarenka won 12 of her 15 approaches at the net; Williams won five of the 11 points when she approached the net
Williams served the only four double faults of the match