With some steely nerves and sharp returning, Victoria Azarenka returned to the US Open finals on Friday, beating Cinderella story Flavia Pennetta in straight sets on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
WTA Staff

NEW YORK, NY, USA - With some steely nerves and sharp returning, Victoria Azarenka returned to the US Open finals, beating Cinderella story Flavia Pennetta in straight sets on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

There were some tense moments in the 52-minute first set as the two players struggled mightily on serve, with seven of the first nine games going to the returner - but it was Azarenka who tamed her delivery just in time, holding serve for just the second time to close the opening frame out, 6-4.

That last game of the first set was anything but straighforward, though - she needed a whopping six set points to do it, missing two on unforced errors, two on Pennetta winners and one on a double fault before finally blasting a big serve up the middle that Pennetta couldn't dig back into the court.

The anti-holding pattern continued in the beginning of the second set, as Azarenka broke in the first game, Pennetta broke in the second game and Azarenka broke in the third game. But the No.2-seeded Azarenka managed to find her range and began pulling away, eventually closing the match out, 64 62.

"I'm so excited, just like the song," Azarenka told Mary Joe Fernandez in her on-court interview right after the match "It's been a long road to the final and it's an amazing feeling to come out here and fight for that trophy on Sunday - I'm definitely giving myself the best chance for my dreams here."

Azarenka was asked in her post-match press conference about the Pointer Sisters reference.

"I've been learning about the history of music, and I've listened to the songs, but I didn't really know them that well," she said. "But to learn the history of how it was made, how it came across, how much of a difference it made in the world, that was something so incredible and so fantastic. To see by the play I saw and learning through Mr. Gordy and Redfoo, it's just incredible. I'm really honored.

"Probably my favorite artist is Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder is incredible. It's tough to have a favorite song - there are so many - but I Heard It Through The Grapevine is one of the best ones."

Azarenka is now through to her fourth Grand Slam final, going 2-1 in her first three - she has won the Australian Open the last two years and was a runner-up here last year (to Serena Williams).

And the keys to beating No.1 seed Serena Williams in the final? "You've got to fight," Azarenka said. "You've got to run, you've got to grind, and you've got to bite with your teeth for whatever opportunity you have out there. She's obviously an amazing player. She's the greatest player of all time."

Pennetta reflected on the match, coming back from wrist surgery and her first Grand Slam semifinal.

"Of course it has been a good tournament," the Italian said. "Today I had my chance. I didn't make it in the first set, but I was playing pretty well, and she played really well. I think she was really consistent today. Neither of us served really well, but in the end it was a good fight, and she won the match.

"Everything's positive, though. I'm really happy about the tournament, how I played, the matches I won, everything. Today I lost, but I lost against the No.2 in the world. I tried my best. I thought I fought really well and the match was nice to see for the fans and everything. I really tried until the last point.

"Now I'm just going to rest two or three days and then start to practice again, because the season isn't finished yet. I have three more tournaments and then maybe the final of Fed Cup. I'll try my best to keep going and improve my ranking. I'll just do my best and the season is over - the last run."