MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Victoria Azarenka has advanced to the Australian Open final with a 6-1, 6-4 win over 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens.
Azarenka wasted five match points in the ninth game of the second set, then took a medical time out for what appeared to be a back or shoulder injury. She had hurt her left ankle earlier in the set. She returned to win the match on her sixth match point, breaking Stephens' serve in the final game.
Azarenka admitted she was nervous at 5-3, and "I almost did the choke of the year!"
Stephens was an upset winner over 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Azarenka will play 2011 French Open champion Li Na in Saturday night's final at Rod Laver Arena. Li earlier Thursday beat Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2.