World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka advanced to the US Open semi-finals for the first time with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5) victory over seventh-seeded defending champion Samantha Stosur of Australia.

The 23-year-old top seed from Belarus yesterday ensured that she will remain atop the world rankings no matter what happens the rest of the way in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament on the hardcourts of Flushing Meadows. “I don’t want to stop yet,” Azarenka said.

Reigning Australian Open champion Azarenka advanced to a semi-final against either French 11th seed Marion Bartoli or Russian third seed Maria Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning this year’s French Open.

Azarenka, who was playing in her first US Open quarter-final, weathered a 75-minute rain delay in the first set to win for the sixth time in as many top-level matches against Stosur.

“She played amazing. The level was so much harder today,” Azarenka said. “She made me play my best.”

In the final set tie-breaker, Azarenka raced to a 4-0 lead after Stosur sent a forehand beyond the baseline but the Aussie battled back to level at 5-5 on an overhead smash winner. Azarenka seized a 6-5 lead on a drop volley after Stosur’s shot struck the net cord and plopped over and won the match when the Aussie sent a backhand wide after two hours and 23 minutes.

“We both showed some excellent tennis,” Azarenka said.

“You could feel the pressure all the time. We really both gave it all. We fought really hard, making each other run like crazy.”

It was the first US Open women’s match in the last-eight or deeper to go to a third-set tie-breaker since 2007, Azarenka saying it was a greater mental challenge than physical one at that point.

“Physically we were already giving all on every point,” she said. “You accept to take that risk or take that challenge. You cannot wait for a mistake. You have to make your opportunities.”

(This article was published on September 5, 2012)
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