It was Semifinal Friday for the Women in Arthur Ashe Stadium and in an exhibition of sheer power, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams advanced and will face each other in Saturday Nights Primetime Final.
Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Sharapova
In the first semifinal of the day, top seeded Victoria Azarenka defeated 3rd seeded Maria Sharapova 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. It was a battle right from the beginning with both slugging it out during this grueling three set match. But after 2 hours and 42 minutes, it was Azarenka left standing.
It didn't start out well for the top seed early as Sharapova was much more crisp and aggressive and Azarenka appeared tight coming out of the gate. Sharapova broke to go up 2-0. She kept her foot on the pedal and broke serve again but Azarenka fought to gain one break back as Sharapova suddenly struggled with her serve tossing in 5 early double faults. Play was intense turning sloppy but Sharapova held to take the first set at 6-4.
It appeared to be more of the same for Sharapova in the second set breaking the top seed to go up 1-0. But Azarenka found her rhythm and won the next four games. The two opponents slugged it out as Sharapova fought hard attempting to break back. It was Azarenka holding her off and breaking again to take the second set at 6-2.
After a 10 minute break due to the Heat Index Rule that allowed the players a break, they squared off for the third set. Neither player had lost a three set match in 2012 and both players held serve early. But a trend developed in the set. Sharapova struggled to hold serve while Azarenka held with more ease. Sharapova was forced to battle hard to save her service games throughout the set with long, grueling games. Finally, Azarenka broke serve at 5-4 to take the set and the match on Sharapova's serve.
Sharapova had 44 winners to Azarenka's 19 but threw in 42 unforced errors as well. That and her 10 double faults in the match stood out after the match.
Serena Williams vs. Sara Errani
Sara Errani has had a fabulous 2012, clearly one of the best of any player on tour. But Serena Williams was way to much for the Italian on Friday rolling to an overpowering 6-1, 6-2 victory to advance to the Final.
Williams wasted little time getting into her groove holding serve with ease and breaking Errani in the first set early. This continued throughout the set as Errani only scratched the scorecard late with her 1 game won in the set. The set took 30 minutes.
There was little change as they went to the 2nd set, it was more power by the American as the 4th seed fired winners at all angles. She finished the match with 38 winners to only 6 by Errani. Clearly out of the match, Errani fought towards the end of the set with pride to win 2 games but it was all Serena Williams in this match.
Errani should not let this loss dampen her great 2012 season as Williams has taken her game to another level after an early exit at the French Open winning Wimbledon and Gold at the Summer Olympics in London. Williams will go for her 4th U.S. Open Championship on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Errani will team with fellow Italian Roberta Vinci and the pair will go for their 3rd Grand Slam Doubles Championship of the year against Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, in the Women's Doubles Final.
Note - Bob and Mike Bryan won their 12th Grand Slam Doubles Title, the most of the Open era. They defeated Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic and Leander Paes of India, 6-3, 6-4. The win tied the Bryan's with Tony Roche and John Newcombe who won 12 Titles from 1965-1976. Their run started before the Open Era began.
(photo of Victoria Azarenka courtesy of Wilson Tennis)