SYDNEY: World number one Serena Williams called on all her signature fighting spirit to overhaul French opponent Aravane Rezai and reach her first Sydney International final yesterday.The American 11-time Grand Slam champion clawed back from a set and 2-5 down to defeat 27th-ranked Rezai 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 and will play defending champion Elena Dementieva in today’s final.
Fifth seed Dementieva, who downed Williams at this stage in last year’s tournament, was too strong for sixth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the other semi, marching to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
Williams will be bidding for her 36th title, while Dementieva will be after her 15th. Williams leads 7-4 in their career matches.
For much of the two-hour contest, Williams looked consigned to losing her fourth Sydney semi-final, before she raised her level to claim 11 of the last 15 games.
“I was lucky to get through today, for sure,” Williams said.
“I was just trying to play my game and do the best that I could. I didn’t do so well.
“I hit I don’t know how many errors today, but I finally made a couple of shots.”
Faced with a chastening defeat just days ahead of the defence of her Australian Open crown, Williams dug deep and turned the tide against the impressive Rezai.
“I don’t think she lost her way at all,” Williams said. “I just think at that point I lifted my game.
“I thought she did really well. I felt like I literally lifted my game at that point because I knew I was going be headed to Melbourne (for the Australian Open) if I didn’t.
“I kept thinking, ‘I want to get a little more practice and I’d hate for it to end now’.”
Rezai said she had learnt from the defeat.
“I was probably scared to win the match,” she said. “But I realise I have the game and I can win, so I learn one more thing today: It’s just to fight until the end of the match.”
Dementieva went on from her impressive straight-sets win over world number two Dinara Safina late Wednesday to ease past Azarenka.
“I was trying to be very aggressive from the beginning of the match,” Dementieva said.
“I didn’t want it to go to three sets because I need to save some energy for the final.” — AFP