Relaxing in her vacation home inside Victoria Azarenka's head, Serena Williams completed a 3-0 round-robin record in Istanbul today by defeating the number 1-ranked player 6-4, 6-4. Williams hit eleven aces, and Azarenka double-faulted nine times, which says quite a bit about the state of each competitor's confidence.
There were eight breaks of serve in the match; it wasn't a simple task for Williams to win. But it wasn't that difficult a task, either, as Williams used both serve and movement to take charge at important moments, and Azarenka grew increasingly flummoxed as the match wore on. The level of competition just wasn't the same as it was in Flushing Meadows, and Azarenka is now looking at a 1-11 record aginst Williams. Today's victory, by the way, marked Williams' 16th career win aganst a world number 1. That puts her just two wins behind Martina Navratilova.
Angelique Kerber is feeling frustrated about now, I would think. She brought a really world-class serve to her match against Azarenka, but lost to the world number 1. That serve was absent today, and opponent Li Na efficiently handed Kerber a 0-3 record in Istanbul. The WTA website says "Li Loves the Lefties"--the Chinese star is 34-5 against left-handed players during the last four years. She is also 6-1 against Kerber, whom she beat in this year's Cincinnati final.
Credit to Kerber, by the way, for the way she made her exit, warmly acknowledging the crowd's support. And what a crowd it is! Fans have given the top eight a great reception during every match.
That brings us to the Fighting Italian, who should never be under-estimated (nor should any Fighting Italian). Sara Errani beat Sam Stosur 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 in today's round-robin play. Stosur gave Errani 18 break chances, and Errani converted seven of them. The final set was pretty much a meltdown for the Australian.
Tomorrow, Stosur plays Maria Sharapova, Errani plays Agnieszka Radwanska, and Azarenka plays Li. The winner of the Azarenka vs. Li match will join Williams in representing the Red Group in the semifinals.
If Azarenka beats Li and Stosur beats Sharapova, Azarenka is a lock to hold onto the world number 1 ranking. If Azarenka is defeated by Li, she will still keep the world number 1 ranking as long as Sharapova doesn't win the title undefeated.
The doubles draw has now been made:
Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci vs. Maria Kirilenko/Nadia Petrova
Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond vs. Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka
Here's a little Istanbul action: