• US Open

Azarenka the young pretender as oldies dominate

ESPN staff
September 4, 2013
Victoria Azarenka and Daniela Hantuchova shake hands after their one-sided quarter-final © AP

At 24, Victoria Azarenka is hardly young in tennis terms, and yet she is the only woman under 30 in the semi-finals at the US Open. It says a lot about the current state of the game.

She had few problems in beating another over 30, Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2, 6-3 and seems the only player likely to give Serena Williams, a 6-0 6-0 winner a day ago, a serious challenge. Hantuchova offered more resistance but never looked likely to spring an upset.

Returning to the US Open quarter-finals for the first time since 2002, Hantuchova broke Azarenka's first service game in both sets but gave the breaks back right away both times. She picked up another break to pull within 5-3 in the second set but Azarenka broke back right away to close out the match.

Asked why the older player were to the fore, Azarenka said: "I think it's just showing that our sport is taking physical ability to another level. You see everybody taking care of their bodies much more, really paying attention to nutrition, fitness, everything. Everybody is working out."

Azarenka will meet the 31-year-old Flavia Pennetta, the 6-4 6-1 winner against fellow Italian Roberta Vinci, in the last four. "She's very good player, all-around player," Azarenka said of Pennetta. "She can do anything. She has a great touch, great variety, she can create power, create spin. I'm really looking forward to that match. It's a big challenge."

Blunting Vinci's net attacks, taking away her deft drop shots and preying on her nerves, Pennetta made it to her first Grand Slam semi-final and climbed back to the top of Italy's competitive tennis ladder.

"I know how she plays, she knows everything of me," Pennetta said of Vinci. "We get in the court, and I think today was more about inside, not about tennis. It was about how you play, how you feel in the court, and how can you handle the situation."

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