Victoria Azarenka might want to lay some of the blame on Roger Federer for firing up Serena Williams in their Olympic women’s singles semi-final after the American trounced her chances of reaching the gold medal play-off with a 6-1, 6-2 hiding.
Federer had kept the pair waiting as he toiled for nearly four and a half hours for victory, with Williams having to fit in a singles and a doubles semi-final after 5pm.
The fourth seeded American was ruthless in her 1hr and 3min demolition of the world No.1, blasting 33 winners to 12, including 16 aces and keeping her unforced error count to just five.
"I was really surprised," said Williams, describing her reaction to the one-sided nature of the match. "I kind of was blind today. I didn't even know where I was going, but you're playing the best player in the world, you got to play well. You can't go out there and not play great. She's No. 1 for a reason. I felt like I had nothing to lose, just going for it."
Serving for the first set at 5-1, Williams held with three aces, leaving the Belarusian despondent and helpless to stem the onslaught.
The American – searching for a maiden Olympic singles medal – was in no mood to ease her foot off the throttle in the second, breaking in the opening game with a crisp backhand down the line soaring clear of Azarenka.
Having held with an ace for 4-0, Williams was almost toying with her opponent. She moved with ease behind the dusty, worn baseline, rolling forehands back at three-quarter pace when on the back foot, before unloading with a crosscourt backhand winner.
Azarenka finally avoided the bagel, holding for 1-4 but three aces in the following game helped Williams to 5-1, the scoreboard looking gloomy for Belarus’s chances of notching its second gold medal of these Olympic Games.
When Williams raced to three match points with a trio of aces, Azarenka played with nothing to lose, whipping a forehand winner past the American at net, before going on to flatten out a forehand down the line to level at deuce.
Match point number four rolled around and this time Williams sealed it in style, a second-serve ace, her fourth of the game sealing a showdown with Russian Maria Sharapova for the gold.
"Maria does everything really well," said Williams. "She's improved so much from week-to-week. I mean, the worst thing for her to do is lose because the next time she comes out, she wins and improves, she never looks back.
"For me, that's going to be really important, knowing I'm playing a great player, French Open champion. I have to really do my best. I don't have anything to lose tomorrow. She's No. 3 in the world. I just do the best I can. Whether I win or not, it will be just a great opportunity for me to get this far."