Serena and Azarenka power on in Madrid
The Madrid Open got the final it craved as Serena Williams battled past Lucie Hradecka to set up a clash with world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka who proved too classy for Agnieszka Radwanska.
Hradecka, a doubles specialist, has had a brilliant run in Madrid - beating the likes of Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur - but Williams proved too big an obstacle to overcome as the former world No. 1 powered into her first final in Madrid with a 7-6(5) 6-0 win.
Hradecka, who had an injury timeout early on to see to an abdominal problem, was not overawed and saved two break points in the sixth game with some huge serving. She repeated the feat in the 12th game, saving two set points - again on the back of some brilliant serving to take the set into a tiebreak.
Williams edged ahead courtesy of two minibreaks but Hradecka unloaded on a couple of returns to get back on level terms at 5-5, but her fifth double fault of the set gifted Williams a set point which she took courtesy of a brilliant, kicking second serve.
Hradecka had won 18 service games in a row, but the loss of the opening set appeared to jolt her as Williams powered through the opening game of the second set to snap that run.
Williams is not one to take her foot off the jugular and a string of errors from the Hradecka racket handed the American a second break - which enabled her to set up a meeting with Australian Open champion Azarenka.
Azarenka's dominance of Radwanska continued with a 6-2 6-4 win. The world No. 1 came into the match having won all five of their previous meetings in 2012 and despite a couple of wobbles in the second set, she extended the sequence.
Having eased through the opening set, Azarenka threatened to run away with the match when she broke in the fifth game of the second. But she gifted the break back courtesy of a double fault.
Azarenka mixed powerful striking with cute angles to break for a second time, but some loose hitting on the backhand wing gave the break back for a second time. Radwanska failed to capitalise and a third break of the set was enough to secure Azarenka's passage to the final.