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

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat