Azarenka has never been as successful on clay as faster grass or hard courts, and Thursday’s match will be her first French Open semifinal.
But she’s getting more and more comfortable on what some players call “dirt.”
Asked by a reporter to describe her “relationship” with clay, Azarenka joked: “I still don’t have any ring on my finger. But I feel like, you know, we made a step forward. We are moving in together.”
In the meantime, nearly every point Jankovic claimed was raucously celebrated by a group of four fans sitting behind her brother (who is also her coach). At a changeover, Jankovic looked up at them with a wide smile as they sang her first name and waved a Serbian flag.
But eventually, Jankovic began missing more — and Sharapova began finding the range. A forehand winner helped set up a break point for Sharapova in the second set’s first game, and Jankovic handed it over with a double-fault.
That was part of a run in which Sharapova won seven of eight points to go ahead 2-0.
“Really important. You know, at least give her something to think about,” Sharapova said. “She was a bit in cruise control for a long period of time.”
At 3-all in the third, a pair of Jankovic backhands into the net and one perfect forehand passing shot by Sharapova led to the set’s first break point. Sharapova capitalized with a well-timed return of a 107 mph serve, forcing yet another backhand error.
The match was nearly two hours old, and Sharapova finally grabbed her first lead.
“It was certainly nice to change things around,” Sharapova said, “because I wasn’t doing much in the first six games.”