|Victoria Azarenka after her win over defending champion Samantha Stosur, on Tuesday
New York: Belarusian Victoria Azarenka survived a ferocious comeback from defending champion Sam Stosur on Tuesday to reach the US Open semi-finals and ensure she remains world No.1 following the year's last Grand Slam.
The pair, two of the biggest hitters in women’s tennis, traded blows for nearly two and a half hours in a match of unrelenting tension on a blustery Arthur Ashe Stadium centre court before Azarenka triumphed 6-1, 4-6, 7-6.
“I have no words,” said a relieved Azarenka. “I think we both showed some excellent tennis.
“We both felt the pressure sometimes, we both gave it our all and we made each other run like crazy.”
Azarenka, who won her first Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open, had won her previous six matches against Stosur in straight sets and seemed headed to another easy win when she won the first four games and took the rain-interrupted opening set in just 30 minutes.
But Australian Stosur, who upset Serena Williams in last year’s final at Flushing Meadows, found her rhythm after the 75-minute interruption, landing more of her booming first serves and hitting groundstrokes deeper and with greater conviction.
The seventh-seed won the second set then recovered from a break down in the third to draw level and force a deciding tiebreak, which Azarenka won 7-5 after blowing a 4-0 lead.
Azarenka will play either Russia's Maria Sharapova or France's Marion Bartoli in Friday’s semi-finals.
Serena didn’t drop a game Monday as she moved into the quarter finals.
Andy Murray muted 15th-seeded Milos Ranoic’s big serve and won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach an eighth consecutive major quarter final. “Today was by far my best match of the tournament,” Murray said.
No. 3 Murray will play No. 12 Marin Cilic of Croatia, who put together a 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 victory over 50th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia, the last left-hander and unseeded man remaining. Murray has won 6 of 7 matches against Cilic over their careers, but the lone loss came at the US Open in 2009.
Serena beat 82nd-ranked Andrea Hlavackova 6-0, 6-0 in 57 minutes. It was the first time in 62 career victories at Flushing Meadows that the three-time champion won a match without losing a game.
“She was fighting really hard,” Serena said. “The match is never over until you shake hands. There is always a comeback available. So I didn’t want to give her that opportunity to try to come back, especially her in particular. She was getting so pumped up and she never gave up. I thought that was really incredibly positive.”
Serena had 31 winners and just seven unforced errors. It didn’t take long for her to show Hlavackova where things were headed. Dominant from the moment she ripped that return of an 88 mph (142 kph) second serve, forcing Hlavackova into an out-of-control backhand that sailed well long, to the moment she powered a 116 mph (187 kph) service winner on the last point.
Hlavackova, a 2011 French Open doubles champion, had never been past the second round in singles at a major tournament before this year.
Serena — who lost in doubles with older sister Venus on Monday night — will next face former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who is finally back in a Grand Slam quarter final more than four years after her French Open title.Meanwhile, Russians Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko avenged a pair of stinging London defeats by beating Venus and Serena Williams in the women’s doubles.
Petrova and Kirilenko claimed a 6-1, 6-4 victory on Louis Armstrong Stadium court for their first victory over the American sisters, to reach the quarter finals.
The Williams sisters beat the Russians 3-6, 6-3, 9-7 in the second round at the Wimbledon championships after Kirilenko and Petrova had led 4-1 in the third set in their first meeting. The Americans went on to claim their 13th Grand Slam doubles title.
Serena and Venus then returned to the All England Club and beat the Russian pair 7-5, 6-4 in the Olympic semi-finals before going on to claim their third gold medal together. “It feels great,” said Kirilenko. “It was a good victory for us,” added Petrova.
The Russians said playing on the Flushing Meadows hard court rather than London grass had made a difference, giving them a better chance at returning serve and getting into the points.
Ana Ivanovic beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-0, 6-4. Ranked No. 1 in the world in 2008, Ivanovic has struggled with injuries and her confidence since.
“There were some good moments and some tough ones, but it’s a process. I understand it better now,” she said. “There are times when you realize that it’s exactly what it is: It’s a process. You can’t have everything at the same time. You have to be consistent on practice courts and then in the matches.”
Roberta Vinci upset second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Leander Paes and Sania Mirza, along with their respective partners, crashed out of the mixed doubles after losing in the quarter finals here.
The third seeded IndoRussian pair of Paes and Elena Vesnina was stunned by the seventh seeded Czech duo of Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak 6-7 (2), 5-7 in a battle that lasted an hour and 43 minutes.
Paes and Elena could win just 67 points as compared to their rivals’ 80, while they also committed 25 unforced errors.
Sania along with her British partner Colin Fleming also went down in straight sets to fourth seeds Kveta Peschke of Czech Republic and Poland’s Marcin Matkowski.
Unseeded Sania and Fleming failed to match their more fancied opponents in the match to bow out in just 69 minutes, losing 3-6, 5-7.
The Indo-British combo wasted as many as seven out of the eight breakpoints they got, to go down tamely.