New York, NY, USA – Two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka made her first Grand Slam semi-final appearance since 2013 after a dominant performance against No. 1 seed Ellis Mertens under lights at Arthur Ash Stadium.
Azarenka smashed 21 winners and broke all of Belgium’s six service games to a clinical 6–1, 6–0 victory in one hour and 13 minutes.
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Azarenka told the press after the match, “I felt that today I actually did the game in a very precise way.” “I was moving really well. I looked at the ball too long. It was a long talk on my racket. I saw it where I needed to see it. So I thought I played well.
“I got all the right answers for what he was trying to do to make me more today, so I’m very happy with that today.”
The win sent Azarenka to her first Grand Slam semi-final after finishing runner-up at Flushing Meadows – and will face a familiar rival as she faces a clash with No. 3 seed Serena Williams. The match would be a repeat of the 2012 and 2013 US Open finals, in which Serena defeated Azarenka to win back-to-back Grand Slam crowns, as well 23rd career meeting.
“I love playing against Serena,” Azarenka said. “I think we have one of the best matches – at least against what I’ve played in my career -. We always played on the big stage. It was very big fights. He is one of the players that I like to limit. Push to, which makes me better.
“I am excited for this. It’s been a while since we played … I think the Grand Slam semi-final is a different stage. This is going to be a different fight. I’m looking forward to it.”
Azarenka was in red form throughout New York in his race, starting a 10-match win after lifting the trophy in Western and Southern. At the US Open, Azarenka dropped just one set en route to the semifinals, taking No.20 seed Karolina Mukova and No. 5 seed Arya Sabalenka en route.
It was a total turnaround for the two-time Grand Slam champion, who came to the Cincinnati tournament to secure his first match win in a year.
Azarenka continued his vigorous resurgence against No. 1 seed Mertens, owning rallies with his banging groundstrokes. He neutralized the game of Tricky Mertens with his firepower, and broke to take a 2–0 lead, and increased his lead to 3–1 after the trading break.
Azarenka was fired at every point, leading to another crucial service hold at 4–1 with a line-down backhand to close out the marathon rally. From there, he was not looking back for the Belarusian as she continued to play the next eight games to book her place in the semi-finals.
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Azarenka said, “I found a long road to come here with a lot of struggles, a lot of understanding, that forces me to find this path, this path.” “But I’m here and I’m happy. I can definitely say that this is the most exciting part for me. I mean, being in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam is definitely a blessing, it is an amazing opportunity.
“The way I feel about myself, about my tennis, about my life is the biggest win for me. Hopefully this is just the beginning for me and I want to move forward on this path.