Sunday 22 October 2017

Azarenka sinks Pennetta to set up shot at revenge over Serena

TENNIS Simon Evans in New York

Belarussian Victoria Azarenka reached her second successive US Open final with a 6-4 6-2 win over Italy's Flavia Pennetta, setting up a chance to avenge last year's defeat to Serena Williams.

"I'm so excited. It's been a long road to the final. It's an amazing feeling," said 24-year-old Azarenka, a former US Open junior champion and mixed doubles winner. Williams made it through to the final with a 6-0 6-3 win over China's Li Na.

Both Azarenka and Pennetta struggled to keep their serve on centre court, with 13 breaks of serve in the 18 games, but Azarenka's power was too much for the enterprising Pennetta, who returned from a serious wrist injury to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.

There were five service breaks in a row before Azarenka, the Australian Open winner, held to win the set after an intense battle during which the unseeded Pennetta saved five set points.

The second set followed a similar pattern, with three broken serves before Azarenka turned up the power, holding to go up 3-1 in the set and then breaking 32-year-old Pennetta, ranked 83rd in the world, with a powerful backhand winner.

Meanwhile, top seed Novak Djokovic rode a third set blip to breeze past Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-0 in the men's quarter-finals.

The Serb polished off his Russian opponent in two hours and 34 minutes to set up a meeting with Stanislas Wawrinka, who earlier stunned defending champion Andy Murray. Djokovic hit 32 winners but his unforced errors count was an unusually high 45 as he reached a 14th successive Grand Slam semi-final.

"I've been always trying to play my best tennis in the Grand Slams," he said.

"I had a tough hard court season coming into the US Open but I'm really working on my game. I'm going to try to play my best in every match."

The New York crowd was on underdog Youzhny's side after the third set, but Djokovic recovered momentum by breaking the Russian's opening service game of the fourth set.

With entrepreneur Richard Branson cheering him on from his supporters' box, Djokovic broke again in the fourth and sixth games to put the issue beyond doubt.

The clash between Djokovic and ninth seeded Swiss Wawrinka will be their first since an epic battle at the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic won 12-10 in the fifth set before going on to win the title.

"Stan showed today why he deserves to be in the top 10 of the world," said Djokovic. "He won in straight sets against the defending champion and probably played the best tennis I've seen him play on hard courts.

"I also feel quite good on the court, quite confident and hopefully I can continue the same way."

US Open,

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