Sports

Kerber: Graf gives me belief to beat Azarenka

She has belief, thanks to Steffi

Belief is what she has lots of - a belief that she can win big matches.

And that is what propelled Angelique Kerber into the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time - by beating no less than two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

That same belief also gave German Kerber a spot in the last four of a Grand Slam at the US Open in 2012.

And who gave her that belief?

She credits fellow German Steffi Graf (inset), one of the game's greatest players.

The 28-year-old Kerber had a stellar 2015, winning four tournaments, second only to Serena Williams' five, and she said Graf's words of wisdom had been instrumental.

"Steffi is a champion. She taught me to believe in myself. She was and still is my idol," Kerber said of Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles - an Open-era record that Williams is gunning to match in Melbourne.

"She won everything, she's a great person, as well.

"I was able to practise with her for a few days just before Indian Wells last year.

"But she taught me actually that I'm on a good way and to try to believe in myself.

"I was trying to do it in the last few months.

"I was going out there today with a lot of confidence and trying to believe really in myself and just going for my shots, trying to play good tennis.

"I'm happy about my game, how I'm playing today."

The seventh-seeded Kerber blasted past the dangerous Azarenka in her first win against the Belarusian.

It was a huge upset for the German, whose six defeats by the 14th seed included this month's Brisbane International final and an epic three-hour marathon at last year's US Open.

Her reward is a clash with Johanna Konta, the first British woman to qualify for a Grand Slam semi-final for 33 years.

"I will just be trying to focus on doing the same stuff I'm doing before every match, focusing on my game," Kerber said of today's semi-final.

"I'll be going out there to win the match, to be aggressive, take my first chances I can get."

"I can't describe it. I was 0-6 (in their head-to-head) before I came on court. I said, 'Just go for it and beat her'."

"I'm so happy to beat her for the first time," Kerber added. "It's amazing to be in the semi-final."

Azarenka said her loss could be put down to "a bad day at the office" but it was also due to two periods of extreme hitting by the German.

Kerber raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and then while facing three set-points at 2-5 in the second, began to swing for the fences and reeled off winner after winner that left the Belarusian looking bereft as to what to do.

Despite being disappointed, the defeat would be put behind her by today.

"It's going to be forgotten tomorrow. I have improved so much from last year," Azarenka said.

"Taking these three weeks I have to keep working hard. I've shown good signs. I've shown good quality, way more consistent, physically much better.

"But there is work that has to be done."

From her performance against Kerber, lots of it! - Wire Services.


MEN'S RESULTS

Singles quarter-finals:

  • Andy Murray (x2) bt David Ferrer (x8) 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3
  • Milos Raonic (x13) bt Gael Monfils (x23) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

WOMEN'S RESULTS

Singles quarter-finals:

  • Angelique Kerber (x7) bt Victoria Azarenka (x14) 6-3, 7-5
  • Johanna Konta bt Zhang Shuai 6-4, 6-1

Doubles semi-finals:

  • Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (x1) bt Julia Goerges/Karolina Pliskova (x13) 6-1, 6-0
  • Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (x7) bt Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai (x15) 
3-6, 6-3, 6-1

FOR THE RECORD

  • Angelique Kerber has never gone beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
  • She is the first German into the last four at the Australian Open since Anke Huber in 1998.

FOR THE RECORD

  • Johanna Konta 
exited at the qualifying stage in her last visit to Melbourne Park.
  • She is the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since 1983.
australian open