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Azarenka fends off Kirilenko for bronze

Victoria Azarenka defeats Angelique Kerber to reach the semi-finals
Saturday 4 August 2012

As Victoria Azarenka fell to her knees in jubilation at capturing an Olympic bronze medal on Saturday it echoed scenes of the Belarusian’s maiden Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne earlier this year.

Clearly all that glitters isn’t always gold.

Rebounding from the disappointment of a Serena Williams drubbing in the semi-finals, the No.1 seed collected Belarus’s first tennis medal as an independent nation with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Russian 14th seed Maria Kirilenko in 1hr 28min.

The Australian Open Champion’s bronze breakthrough ensures the three women’s Grand Slam winners this year will also collect the three women’s singles medals up for grabs at London 2012, with French Open Champion Maria Sharapova and Wimbledon Champion Serena Williams battling it out for gold.

The emotion of seeing a singles medal beginning to slip from her grasp became all too overwhelming for Kirilenko when at 15-40, facing a double break of serve in the second set, she took a moment to wipe away tears.

Azarenka went on to break for 3-0 and locked at 30-30, Kirilenko again fought back tears before containing her emotions to break the Belarusian.

It was enough to compose the Russian, who will have a second chance at securing a medal later on Saturday in a women’s doubles semi-final. She held before pouncing as the medal-winning nerves began to creep into Azarenka’s game and went on to break for 3-3.

Any chances of taking it to a deciding set were stifled immediately. Azarenka broke for 4-3 and after a lengthy struggle on serve for 5-3, sent an inspired double fist pump and a scream of “C’mon” to her support crew’s corner.

When Kirilenko dumped a backhand into the net to end the match after 1hr 28mins the first tennis medal of London 2012 was decided.

And it may not be the last for Azarenka at these Games. She and Max Mirnyi will take to the court  later on Saturday to finish their Mixed Doubles quarter-final, hoping to continue on their winning ways.

The London 2012 Olympic tennis is taking place at Wimbledon. Visit the ITF Olympics site for full scores, draws and the London 2012 site for video content, venue and schedule information.

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