MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka reached her first Grand Slam final and staked a claim for the No. 1 ranking when she beat defending champion Kim Clijsters 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday.
The third-seeded Azarenka recovered her composure twice in periods when a resurgent Clijsters seemed to have the advantage, breaking the veteran Belgian's serve three times in the third set to secure victory in only her second appearance in the semifinal of a major.
The 22-year-old Belarusian will play either Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or 2008 Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova in the Saturday night final. Azarenka, Kvitova and Sharapova can all finish the tournament with the No. 1 ranking.