Azarenka, Safarova will decide champ in Doha

Doha, Qatar ( – Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka and
Czech left-hander Lucie Safarova will battle in Saturday’s final at the Qatar
Open tennis event.

Friday’s marquee semifinal saw the Belarusian wild card Azarenka tackle
seventh-seeded fellow former world No. 1 Venus Williams, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“Venus was kicking my butt left and right and I didn’t know what to do. In the
second set I took control,” said Azarenka.

The 34-year-old American and seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams had been
4-0 lifetime against the two-time Australian Open titlist Azarenka.

Azarenka was a back-to-back Doha champ in 2012 and 2013.

The 25-year-old Azarenka is 17-15 in her career WTA finals and seeking her
first title since 2013.

The other semi saw Safarova oust ninth-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro,
6-3, 6-2, on a blustery day on the hardcourts at Khalifa International
Tennis Complex.

“It’s so exciting! It’s my first final this year, and I’ve been playing so
well in all my matches, so I’m really, really happy,” Safarova said.

After an up and down start to the season, Safarova has now won eight of her
last 10 matches. The turnaround, which will be rewarded by a career-high
ranking on Monday morning, comes as no surprise to the Czech: “It wasn’t a
struggle at the start of the year. I lost a couple of close matches — it
happens sometimes. But I worked really hard in the off season and I my level
has been going up, so I’m enjoying playing.”

The 28-year-old Safarova is 5-7 in her career finals and also seeking her
first title since 2013.

The 48th-ranked Azarenka is 6-0 lifetime against the No. 15 Safarova. They
haven’t met since 2011.

Saturday’s titlist will claim $124,000.