Victoria Azarenka eyes final after ending Sam Stosur's US Open title defence
Victoria Azarenka has her sights firmly set on a second grand slam title of the year after ending Sam Stosur's defence of her US Open crown in a high-quality quarter-final at Flushing Meadows.
The pair covered every inch of Arthur Ashe court over the two hours and 23 minutes it took for Azarenka to edge a 6-1 4-6 7-6 (7/5) victory and reach her first semi-final in New York.
The 23-year-old said: "I'm really looking forward to playing the tough battles I have still in the tournament. Being for the first time in the semi-finals at the US Open is an incredible feeling for me. Definitely I don't want it to stop. I really want it bad."
The top seed has looked back to the form that helped her to 26 wins in a row at the start of the season, including her first grand slam title at the Australian Open.
She had dropped only 10 games on her way to the last eight and was facing a player she had not so much as lost a set against in six previous meetings.
It looked like another straightforward afternoon when she raced through a rain-interrupted first set against an error-prone Stosur but the Australian did not want to give up her title without a fight.
She responded brilliantly in the second set and twice fought back from a break down in the decider as the quality went up and up. Stosur even had a point to break at 5-5 only for Azarenka to serve her only ace of the match.
The top seed won the first four points of the tie-break but still Stosur would not give in and fought back to 5-5 before Azarenka finally crossed the finishing line with a drop shot and forehand onto the line that drew the error from her opponent.
Azarenka said: "I think everybody prefers to win maybe a little bit easier than this way. But it definitely gives a big boost and energy knowing that you go through the fight to win.
"I enjoy the fight. I enjoy that struggle, that pain that we go through, that incredible moment that you feel relieved you gave it all in every point you had.
"She came back really strong and she wouldn't let me use those opportunities. I kept telling myself, 'Don't be a chicken, come on, just go, go for your shots'."
The victory ensured Azarenka will remain world number one whatever the outcome of the tournament, but that is certainly not her primary focus.
She said: "It means a lot, but it's nothing like lifting a trophy. I cannot compare that feeling to winning a tournament. It's just a number. It's a great achievement. It's something that you work really hard for your whole life to be. But this will not compare."
Stosur stunned Serena Williams in the final last year to win her first grand slam title and, although there was sadness at the loss of her crown, the seventh seed took solace in her performance.
She said: "Of course there's always going to be disappointment when you lose in the quarters of the US Open, but I have to say I'm really pleased with the way I played.
"I thought it was a really, really good match, and there was a point or two in it. I gave it everything I had."
It was by far the closest Stosur had ever been to overcoming Azarenka and also gave her great belief after a season where she has failed to build on last year's brilliant triumph here.
"She's a tough player but I think I'm capable of beating her one day," Stosur said. "I just would have liked it to have been today.
"I will certainly take a lot of confidence out of this match and out of the whole week. Going into this tournament I was struggling a little bit.
"To really turn it around in one of the biggest tournaments of the year - that's what we come out here and play for.
"I think that proves to me that I am capable of doing it. To have another showing here at the Open like this, it for sure gives me confidence to think that maybe one day I can do it again."
The rain returned before Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli could begin their quarter-final and, after finally managing to start, they played only four games before being forced off again.
The surprise was that Bartoli, who had never previously been past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows or taken a set off Sharapova in their four past meetings, won all those games.
At 1745 local time, with the rain still hammering down, play was called off for the day in that match, although organisers were still hoping to get the night session played.
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