Victoria Azarenka beat Daniela Hantuchova to reach the semifinals of the US Open, joining Serena Williams, Li Na and Flavia Pennetta in the final four in the last Grand Slam tournament of the year.
WTA Staff

NEW YORK, NY, USA - Victoria Azarenka snapped up the last spot in the semifinals of the US Open on Wednesday night, defeating Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets on Arthur Ashe Stadium, 62 63.

There were some tense moments in the match - after dropping the first set, Hantuchova went up 2-0 in the second set - but at the end of the day the No.2-seeded Azarenka was just too solid, hitting 17 winners to just 15 unforced errors, and after an hour and 16 minutes she was through to the semis.

"It was a little bit tricky with the wind, and Daniela is the kind of player who doesn't give you rhythm, so you have to try to make it happen in one or two shots in the beginning," Azarenka said. "There weren't many long rallies, which can make it difficult to get into the match, but I felt like I was really good in the important moments. I raised my level when I needed to, which was the key to this match."

"I was trying everything, but it was just not going my way," Hantuchova said. "I didn't feel like I played my best tennis today, which is unfortunate, because I had many chances and didn't hold my serves when I needed to. Throughout the whole tournament my serve was working great, just not tonight.

"I'm very disappointed with the performance, because I know what I can do and how I can play. I was going into the match feeling confident about my chances, but it just didn't work out for me today."

And on Azarenka's performance in the match? "She's always been very solid and she doesn't give you anything for free," Hantuchova said. "She makes very few mistakes and moves extremely well too. I knew what to expect - like I said, it was just from my side. I didn't bring the best out of me."

Azarenka talked about her physicality, which turned a great ball striker into a Grand Slam champion.

"I work a lot on my fitness," Azarenka said. "I feel like I develop every time I come back, especially after my last injury. I came back at another fitness level, and my physical ability has always helped me to play better tennis, because my movement is important - I feel like I have heavier shots now. I direct the ball better. I can maybe reach balls I wasn't really able to reach because of my flexibilty before.

"So little by little it comes together. That's what I'm working on. And I'm going to keep improving."

And that led to another topic of discussion - the fact that Azarenka will be the only 20-something in the semifinals here, with 30-somethings Serena Williams, Li Na and Flavia Pennetta making up the rest of the final four. It's only the second time in the Open Era where three of the semifinalists at a Grand Slam are over 30 - the other such instance came at Wimbledon in 1994 (read more about that here).

"It shows that our sport is taking physical ability to another level," Azarenka said. "Everybody is taking care of their body much more, paying attention to nutrition, fitness, everything. Everybody is working out. Recovery is more important. I think that's the big aspect of allowing older players to have a longer career. But I think the younger generation like Caroline and Radwanska are doing really well too.

"Like Sloane Stephens is really taking it to her next level. We are pretty even there."

Next up for Azarenka is Pennetta, who beat Roberta Vinci in her quarterfinal earlier in the day (read more here). Azarenka and Pennetta are tied in their head-to-head, 1-1 - Pennetta won the last time.

"First of all, Flavia is such an amazing person," Azarenka said. "To see her go through the injuries and coming up with the best results she has right now, it's really amazing. She's a very good player, an all-around player. She can do anything. She has great touch; great variety; she can create power; create spin. She's also very experienced and has been in the Top 10, and beaten a lot of Top 10 players.

"Her ranking doesn't matter. It's about the moment right now, and she's playing terrific tennis."