It’s all in the racquet.
And for Victoria Azarenka, it may very well be the case. The young Belarussian knocked off defending champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals of the Australian Open in three highly-contested sets that witnessed several momentum changes. And Azarenka did it all under her new sponsor Wilson using the Juice tennis racquet — a switch she made earlier this month after dropping Head as a sponsor.
Azarenka has long been considered the sole top player consistently inconsistent in her inability to reach a grand slam final. As one of the greatest young hopes, progressing quickly through the ranking, many pegged her as an upcoming champ within “Generation Next”. However, under Head for years, her biggest gain was only reaching the semifinals in Wimbledon in 2011. But only days after switching to Wilson, Azarenka checks her nerves and closes out the sport’s best hard-court player, to reach her first grand slam final at the Australian Open.
Azarenka’s win wasn’t certain, however, as she quickly went down 6-1 in the second set after winning the first. The decisive third set saw it all: double faults, breaks of serve and, of course, plenty of grunting from Azarenka. Even while winning one less point than Clijsters, Azarenka was the better player for much of the match. Both women went for their shots as is evident by the sheer number of unforced errors (40 for Azarenka and 44 for Clijsters) and winners (20 for Azarenka and 26 for Clijsters) for both. In the end for Azarenka though, it all came down to overcoming her nerves, forcing Clijsters into mistakes and closing it out.
Today, we witnessed first-hand another new player blossom on-court. One with the ability to overcome the hype that centered around her for years, and actually play to her abilities. Azarenka matured into an adult over the course of this 2 hour and 12 minute battle and her time in the Australian sun won’t soon come to a close as she is set to take on either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova in the finals on Saturday.
Additionally, whichever player wins the Australian Open becomes the new world #1. For a woman that can do anything now, this is simply no big deal.