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Azarenka and Williams Book Final Spots in Doha

Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams made easy work of their opponents as they each booked a spot into the Qatar Total Open finals.

By Erik Gudris

Victoria Azarenka (February 16th, 2013) -- Even if the current top four in the WTA have separated themselves somewhat from the rest of the field, it's still a bit disconcerting that the majority of the matchups between each other continue to be, at least for the moment, so overwhelmingly one-sided.

That was certainly the case again today in the two marquee semifinal matches at the Qatar Total Open in Doha. Top seed Victoria Azarenka was first up against No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska with Azarenka holding a commanding 11-3 lifetime advantage.

After a couple of early breaks between them in the opening set, it was Azarenka as she has in their past meetings, who stepped up and began knocking winners on all sides of the court. Azarenka hit 16 in the first set compared to just four from Radwanska and that was good enough for Azarenka to take the set 6-3.

While Radwanska's trademark defense frustrates most opponents, Azarenka thrives on it and is content to rally with Radwanska for as long as it takes until she finds an opening. She found one early on in the second set and smacked a forehand return winner to open a 2-0 lead. From there, it was really up to Azarenka to maintain the course to victory.

One final big serve from the Belarusian's racquet that Radwanska couldn't handle was all it took to give Azarenka a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win.

Radwanska is now 5-24 lifetime against the current top three in the WTA. A troubling statistic indeed for someone still seeking her first ever Major title.

Williams Overwhelms Sharapova in Semis

The other, and more famous, lopsided matchup followed a very familiar script in the second semi. No. 2 seed Serena Williams, despite her emotionally draining match the other day, was still a heavy favorite against No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova. That was due to Williams holding a commanding 10-2 head to head over the Russian.

Sharapova stepped up the aggression early and tried to dictate the rallies when she could. After holding for 2-all, Sharapova let out a loud "come on!" to let everyone, including Williams, know she was prepared for a long battle.

But that battle never came. That was due largely to Sharapova hitting a horribly well-long double fault when down break point to give Williams a 4-2 lead. With 40% of her serves being unreturned by Sharapova, Williams put her foot down and rolled on to a 6-3 first set.

Sharapova had an opportunity for a break in Williams's first service game of the second second. But after Williams struggled but then held for 1-all, any momentum Sharapova might have built upon was lost. Williams secured a break of serve for 3-2 and then a few games later at 5-2 after winning a lengthy rally. Sharapova may have thrown everything at Williams. But Williams threw it right back at her with more power and more precision.

Williams wobbled a bit serving for the match by throwing in two double faults and thus giving Sharapova a ray of thin light with another break point. But Williams shut that hope out by getting to match point and then going on to win 6-3, 6-2 in over an hour.

The loss is significant for Sharapova as it was first ever at the Doha event and her eleventh straight against Williams.

Now Williams faces Azarenka in the finals and once again it will be a battle of lopsided head to heads. Though Azarenka has challenged Williams in their last few meetings especially at last year's U.S. Open final, she still goes in the underdog having only beaten Williams once in 12 previous encounters.

(Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve)


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