Angelique Kerber gave it her all but still couldn’t see off world number one Victoria Azarenka in the WTA Championships this Wednesday evening, falling 6-7 (11-13) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 in over three hours of pulsating tennis.
Azarenka was made to work for her victory and much like Li Na against Serena Williams earlier in the day, Kerber put up stiff resilience and will be disappointed not to have taken two match points in the second set.
Reminiscent of Williams, Azarenka looked out of touch, bewildered and at times overly aggressive on court against a lower-ranked but determined opponent. The world number one did everything necessary to take the first set yet couldn’t convert six set points as Kerber emerged victorious 13-11.
At 3-1 down in the first, the Belarusian crucially broke back to make it 3-3 after Kerber hit long a flat ball. The set went with serve until the tie-breaker where a controlled volley teed up the set – only for Kerber to hit straight back with a resounding display of tennis.
The German was punished at the start of the second, however, losing her serve as an angry-looking Azarenka found her form again. Indeed, Azarenka proved her number-one seeding at these Championships with a clinical love game to go 4-2 up in the second yet was broken back to 4-4 after erratic long shots failed to stay inside the baseline.
Indeed, Kerber proved her mettle when serving an ace to defend a break point and nine deuces later – having been run ragged – Kerber won her third game in a row to go 5-4 up in the second.
Kerber seemed ready to bring on the trainer after clutching her knee during that gruelling game yet the 24-year-old came out to serve for the match without any aid. Indeed, she didn’t need it and after winning the first point Azarenka gifted her a 30-0 lead, slamming the ball into the net before throwing her racquet to the ground in a display of temperament not seen in the Belarusian for quite some time.
Azarenka pulled a point back but Kerber’s agility to adjust at the net and place a forehand down the line gave her two match points. Azarenka defended them both with fierce shots between the pair before pulling the scores back 5-5.
Kerber was not to be subdued however and won her service game with consummate ease: 6-5! The pressure was back on Azarenka but she held firm, making it 6-6 with a love set to enter another tie-break.
Like Williams earlier in the day, Azarenka proved her class when it mattered, overcoming her nightmare first set to win this second tie-break 7-2.
Azarenka broke Kerber early in the third set with a forehand winner down the line, only to see her serve broken with back-to-back Kerber forehands. The set went by serve until 4-3, when Azarenka finally broke Kerber again to serve for the match. Yet her opponent showed further resilience to break back as the game passed the three-hour mark.
The break wasn’t enough however and Azarenka commanded two match points after a stunning forehand, eventually pushing Kerber right into the corner of the court before taking the match with a powerful final shot.