x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Victoria Azarenka to show some respect for her elders at US Open

Belarusian is keen on final rematch with Serena Williams but will have to get past Flavia Pennetta first.

Victoria Azarenka is seven years younger than the other semi-finalists. She meets 31-year-old Flavia Pennetta on Friday. Andrew Gombert / EPA
Victoria Azarenka is seven years younger than the other semi-finalists. She meets 31-year-old Flavia Pennetta on Friday. Andrew Gombert / EPA

Victoria Azarenka is relishing her role as the youngest of the four women's singles players still standing at the US Open.

The world No 2, at 24, is the only one of the quartet in action on Friday in the semi-finals under age 30, and she joked: "I'm a baby, what can I say?"

Her opponent today, the unseeded Flavia Pennetta, is 31, as are the other semi-finalists, defending champion and world No 1 Serena Williams, and China's Li Na, the No 5 seed.

It is only the second time in the Open era of tennis, after Wimbledon in 1994, that three women over 30 have been in the semis, and Azarenka credited improved fitness in the sport for the longevity of her rivals.

"I think it's just showing that our sport is taking physical ability to another level," she said. "You see everybody taking care of their bodies much more, really paying attention to nutrition, fitness, everything. Everybody is working out."

Azarenka overcame Daniela Hantuchova, 30, in the quarter-finals on Wednesday 6-2, 6-3, and the Belarusian remains on track for a title rematch on Sunday with Williams, who defeated her in three sets in last year's final at New York.

Azarenka acknowledged she had not been able to see much of Williams in action at this year's tournament, largely because of schedule clashes, but also because the American was winning her matches so quickly. On Tuesday she routed Carla Sanchez Navarro 6-0, 6-0, to achieve the first double-bagel result in a women's quarter-final at Flushing Meadows since 1989.

Williams has dropped 13 games in five matches to date, not losing a set in the process, and Azarenka said: "Sometimes I watch, but I don't really watch a lot of TV. Plus, she played too quick, all the matches."

Before she can think about Williams, Azarenka has to navigate her way around the challenge of Pennetta, something she is not taking lightly.

"She's very good player, all-around player," she said of Pennetta, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Italian compatriot Roberta Vinci in her quarter-final.

"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."

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