Flushing Meadows, NY (Sports Network) - Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka
overcame former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova on Friday to reach her first-ever
U.S. Open final.
In a rematch of this year's Australian Open final, the Belarusian Azarenka
came back to beat the third-seeded Russian superstar 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 at Arthur
Ashe Stadium. Azarenka also bested Sharapova in Melbourne back in January.
Azarenka's opponent in Saturday night's final will be fourth-seeded American
great Serena Williams or 10th-seeded Italian Sara Errani, who was June's
surprise French Open runner-up to Sharapova. Williams owns 14 major singles
titles, including this year's Wimbledon championship and a trio of U.S. Open
crowns. She lost to Aussie Samantha Stosur in last year's U.S. Open finale.
Azarenka and Sharapova split the first two sets on Friday, with neither stanza
being all that competitive. But things heated up in the third.
The Belarusian edged out to a 5-4 lead in the final set by holding serve, and
broke the Russian in the next game to advance. Azarenka blew a match point,
leading 5-4, 40-30, when she misfired wide on a forehand down the line.
But two points later, on her second match point, Azarenka cashed in when
Sharapova sent one final forehand long after 2 hours, 42 minutes of
Sharapova swatted eight aces, but also piled up a whopping 10 double faults to
hurt her own cause. Azarenka broke Sharapova five times, while the Russian
veteran settled for three breaks on Day 12 of the fortnight.
The disappointed Sharapova had 25 more winners (44-19), but also committed 23
more unforced errors (42-19).
The 23-year-old Azarenka is now 12-0 in three-set matches this year, while
Sharapova fell to 12-1.
Azarenka improved to 6-4 lifetime against Sharapova, including 3-1 this year.
Their first three meetings of 2012 all came in finals, with the Belarusian
winning two of them.
The 25-year-old Sharapova enjoyed her best U.S. Open since capturing her lone
title here back in 2006. The tall Russian completed a career Grand Slam with a
French Open title a few months ago and lost to Williams in the Olympic gold-
medal match last month.
Azarenka will appear in her second career Grand Slam final, with both coming
this year. She's 4-2 in her overall finals in 2012.
The Sports Network