No Shortage Of Drama In Serena Williams' Win Over Victoria Azarenka
PARIS -- There was a crucial moment in the second set of their match Saturday when things got rather tense between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. The two are close friends, but a controversial call on a Williams set point got the two gesturing and snapping at each other. The match didn't end well for Azarenka -- it rarely does when she plays Serena -- but that doesn't mean the feud carried over off the court.
Azarenka said that not only was there no air to clear between the two, she even gave Serena a pair of her shorts after the match. "True story."
"Vika and I are really close," Serena said after beating Azarenka 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. "We text each other. She's a really, really good person. I really like her. I'm obsessed with her outfit. I told her, 'God, I love those shorts.' So she gave me a pair. She promised me a pair, and she gave me a pair.
"We talked about this a long time ago. We said, we're going to leave everything on the court, we're going to give 500 percent and when we're off the court, we'll be really cool."
Just don't expect Serena to give her anything -- anything at all -- during a match.
The two have played 19 times and Serena has won 16 of them. Nonetheless, those matches have been close, with five of their past seven going three sets. That includes a round of 16 meeting in Madrid recently when Azarenka held three match points ... only to lose.
Saturday's match went similarly. Azarenka won the first set, led the second set 4-2 and the third set 2-0 ... and lost yet again.
It's never fun to play Serena, but that is especially the case when her back is against the wall.
"I was just really down and out in that match," Serena said, "and I just feel like I just really zeroed in. I really focused and I really wanted to win that."
The victory was Serena's 50th at Roland Garros, making her the first woman to win 50 or more matches at each of the Grand Slams. Roger Federer is the only man to do so.
"I don't understand that, because it's just weird to me, because, I was thinking, are you sure Martina [Navratilova] didn't do it or Chrissie Evert?" Williams said of learning she was the first. "Yeah, that's just strange. But I feel good about it. I feel if I can win another match at the French Open, I will be the first to hit 51."
She has a pretty good chance. Azarenka might have been the toughest opponent Serena will face here. While her next opponent, Sloane Stephens, beat Williams in Australia in 2013, Serena has won their past three matches. After that she would face either Sara Errani or Julia Goerges. Her semifinal opponent could be Petra Kvitova, whom Williams is 5-1 against. And she completely dominates Maria Sharapova, her possible opponent in the final.
Azarenka was the last woman to hold the No. 1 ranking before Serena began her current stretch in February of 2013. A left foot injury really limited Azarenka in 2014, causing her to miss many tournaments and knocking her down to 32 by year's end. She is on the mend, though, and nearing her old form. And for a while, it looked as if she was going to beat Williams.
And then Serena roared back. With a little help from a controversial call on a set point.
With Serena leading the second set 5-4, Azarenka hit a shot that was near the line but was called out just as Williams returned the ball into the net. A check of the mark showed the ball was in and a do-over was called. Azarenka felt she should have won the point, and the game should have gone to deuce. Instead, Williams won the replay as well as the set, leading both players to make negative gestures to each other.
Azarenka said the call wasn't the turning point of the match, but that it was important. "My honest opinion is that call was bulls--- and everybody knows it," she said. "But it's part of the game. Sometimes it happens this way."
Serena, naturally, said it wasn't that big a deal. "He did a late call, he called it out, he didn't put his arm out until like five minutes later," she said. "But yeah, I mean, this is tennis. This happens all the time. You know, I -- I even said, no, don't worry, the ball is in, we'll just replay the point. So for me, it was like, this happens all the time, every day in tennis."
Both players said they felt some sort of review would be good. "I think that would be really cool, because sometimes you may or may not foot fault," said Williams, referring to a call in her 2009 US Open semifinal against Kim Clijsters. "So, yeah. And obviously other things, as well. I think it could definitely not only be fun for the fans, but as well be helpful for the players to have that kind of instant-replay thing."
Even then it probably wouldn't help against Serena. No matter how many times they play or replay, it doesn't go well for Azarenka when she plays Serena.