US Open 2013: Victoria Azarenka to take on Flavia Pennetta in last four

Azarenka beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 6-3 to reach semi-final

Victoria Azarenka will take on Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals of the US Open after breezing past Daniela Hantuchova.

The second seed had struggled in her previous two matches against Alize Cornet and Ana Ivanovic but she looked in better form under the lights on Arthur Ashe.

Azarenka got the better of three straight breaks of serve to start the match and pulled away to take the first set.

Hantuchova made a stronger start to the second, winning the first two games, but back came Azarenka with a run of five games in a row.

She suffered a minor blip when she was broken serving for the match, throwing in a double fault, but she hit back straight away to win 6-2 6-3 in an hour and 16 minutes.

Pennetta had earlier joined Serena Williams and Li Na in the last four by overcoming her fellow Italian Roberta Vinci 6-4 6-1.

Had Hantuchova won, all four semi-finalists would have been aged over 30.

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

"It's amazing to see such great players in the semis. Flavia has been through such a lot and to see her doing so well is incredible and I can't wait to play against her.

"Everybody looks much fitter, everyone's really taking care of their bodies, and it's taken the sport to the next level."

Azarenka will be a big favourite to beat Pennetta, which could very well set up a final rematch against top seed Williams.

The pair met in a grand slam final for the first time here 12 months ago and it was a great battle, Williams eventually edging it.

Azarenka said: "I'm really excited to be in the semi-finals. New York is one of my favourite places to play. It gives me so much energy. Every time I want to go out and fight. I play like a kid here."

Pennetta continued her remarkable US Open run to reach her first grand slam singles semi-final.

The 31-year-old had made the quarter-finals in New York three times before but was well off the radar before the tournament began.

Initially, Pennetta was not even ranked highly enough to get into the main draw but crept in after a withdrawal.

The world number 83 is a former top-10 player but missed this tournament last year and the following six months because of a wrist injury.

She struggled when she returned to the tour, winning just three matches in her first seven tournaments and dropped out of the top 100.

But a run to the semi-finals in Strasbourg in May as a qualifier showed her form was coming back and she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Pennetta said: "From the first day of the tournament I never thought I would be here and be talking about the semi-finals.

"I didn't play my best tennis in the last six months, and I just tried to keep working and working the same way every day.

"I'm starting to feel more my forehand, my backhand. Everything is starting to feel more normal in the way it was before the injury.

"I'm playing really good tennis here. Every day is much better. Every day was tougher and I've adjusted, tried to use everything I have and take it to the court and play my best tennis."

Pennetta had reached the last eight without dropping a set, beating fourth seed Sara Errani - another Italian - in the second round, former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in round three and in-form Simona Halep in the last 16.

Pennetta and Vinci have known each other 20 years, and Pennetta admitted that made the match more difficult.

"I felt it a lot," she said. "I think in the beginning we didn't play good tennis. I was tight, she was tight also.

"When I won the first set I just relaxed a little bit and tried to play better. But the day was tough for both of us."

It has been a terrific tournament for the Italian women, with Vinci beating qualifier Camila Giorgi in the fourth round.

Pennetta will now attempt to become the first Italian to reach a singles final at Flushing Meadows.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project