No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka secured a place in the U.S. Open final for the second year in a row, beating unseeded Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-2 on Friday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was not easy in the early going for the first 2013 finalist, as Azarenka overcame 18 unforced errors and five double faults in the opening set before cruising comfortably thereafter.
Gusty conditions at Flushing Meadows lent to erratic play from both women at times, and neither had any consistent control over her serve.
The two players broke each other in seven of the match's first nine games. It was a rare hold of serve by Azarenka that won her the first set 6-4, but it took six set points before she finally closed out the lengthy game.
Azarenka promptly broke Pennetta to open the second set, taking the game to deuce and needing only one ad out to capitalize.
However, a double fault started off the next game poorly, and after an extended rally, Pennetta scored a double break, taking advantage of her fourth opportunity in as many tries.
Pennetta couldn't keep up the momentum, even after serving her first ace of the match in the subsequent game. She blew a 30-0 lead and watched Azarenka win four consecutive points to get back to 2-1 on serve.
From there, Azarenka refused to let up, holding serve and then breaking Pennetta at love to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
A lot of lengthy rallies tested both players' impressive fitness, but it was the favored Belarusian who came out on the winning end more often than not.
The superior power of Azarenka's groundstrokes became more noticeable as the match wore on. Pennetta moved exceptionally to stay in points, but she seemed to become fatigued playing from behind the baseline so often.
Perhaps the biggest key to the match was that Azarenka won 78 percent of points off Pennetta's second serve, and the Italian only got 44 percent of her first serves in.
Despite the grit she showed in tagging Azarenka back on her service games—including an impressive comeback from 15-40 down to pull within 4-2 in the final set—it wasn't quite enough in what was overall a remarkable run for Pennetta.
Losing eight service games is not exactly a recipe for success to reach a Grand Slam final, though.
CBS Sports' Evan Hilbert captured Azarenka's feelings following the match. "I'm so excited. It has been a long road to the final," Azarenka said. "It's an amazing feeling."
The rematch revenge factor is alive no matter who Azarenka's opponent is. Williams beat Azarenka in the final of this tournament last year in three sets, and Azarenka defeated Li earlier this year in defense of her Australian Open title.
Note: Match statistics are courtesy of USOpen.org.
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