Tennis: Azarenka moves into US Open semifinals

Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, returns a shot to Daniela Hantuchova, of Slovakia, during a quarterfinal of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Azarenka won 6-2, 6-3. Photo / AP.
Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, returns a shot to Daniela Hantuchova, of Slovakia, during a quarterfinal of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Azarenka won 6-2, 6-3. Photo / AP.

Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka moved a win away from a possible showdown in the U.S. Open finals with Serena Williams, beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-3 today in the quarterfinals.

And at 24 years young, Victoria Azarenka can claim something very few of the more experienced players can a formula for beating Williams.

By topping Hantuchova, Azarenka is not only closer to a possible final against Williams. she is also the only woman under the age of 30 to make the final four at Flushing Meadows this year.

"I'm a baby, what can I say?'' Azarenka said.

Azarenka is one of only three women to beat top-seeded Williams this year and is the only woman to beat her twice in 2013. The last win came last month in the final of a tuneup tournament in Cincinnati.

Williams won the title here last year with a three-set win over the two-time Australian Open champion from Belarus.

Does Azarenka think about a possible rematch with Williams? ``No,'' she said.

Ever bother watching her matches on TV?

"Sometimes I watch but I don't really watch a lot of TV,'' Azarenka said. ``Plus, she played too quick, all the matches.''

Similar to Williams' dominance of Carla Suarez Navarro the night before, Azarenka's match against 48th-ranked Hantuchova wasn't much of a roadblock.

Returning to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2002, Hantuchova broke Azarenka's first service game in both sets but gave the breaks back right away both times. She picked up another break to pull within 5-3 in the second set but Azarenka broke back right away to close out the match.

Standing in the way of a Williams-Azarenka final are fifth-seeded Li Na, who plays Williams in Friday's semifinals, and 83rd-ranked Flavia Pennetta, who goes against Azarenka.

"She's very good player, all-around player,'' Azarenka said about Pennetta, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Roberta Vinci earlier Wednesday. ``She can do anything. She has a great touch, great variety, she can create power, create spin. I'm really looking forward to that match. It's a big challenge.''

Li, Williams and Pennetta are all 31. Hantuchova is 30, and had she won, this would have been the first Grand Slam women's semifinal of the Open era with all four of the semifinalists in their 30s.

Instead, there are three in their 30s for only the second time (The other: 1994 Wimbledon, with Lori McNeil, Gigi Fernandez and Martina Navratilova), with Azarenka the baby of the bunch.

"I think it's just showing that our sport is taking physical ability to another level,'' Azarenka said. ``You see everybody taking care of their bodies much more, really paying attention to nutrition, fitness, everything. Everybody is working out.''

-AP

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