Victoria Azarenka lost just one game against Elise Mertens to return to the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2013 US Open and set up her 23rd career meeting with Serena Williams.
The unseeded Azarenka fired 21 winners to 11 unforced errors in her dominant 6-1 6-0 win over the 16th-seeded Mertens in their first career meeting. The Belarusian former world No.1, who won the “Cincinnati” title on the same venue a week and a half ago, loves playing the game more than ever:
I don’t think I have ever enjoyed tennis, to be quite honest. I felt that it was a job and something you were meant to do. Winning, you enjoy it. Losing, I was so upset and for a couple of days I couldn’t function normally. Now nothing bothers me. I can say I am feeling the moment.
Earlier on Wednesday, Williams hit 20 aces to overcome the star of the tournament Tsvetana Pironkova — it is the most aces Williams has hit since firing 24 against Azarenka at 2012 Wimbledon. Azarenka is looking forward to playing Williams, even though she trails 18-4 in their head-to-head record, which includes two losses in the US Open finals (in 2012 and 2013):
Can it get any better? For me it cannot. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to play against a great champion and my friend. I’m excited. It’ll be fun for me.
The other semifinal will feature fourth seed Naomi Osaka and seed No.28 Jennifer Brady. Interestingly, three of the four US Open semifinalists made the final of a WTA tournament after the restart — Osaka and Azarenka were the Western & Southern Open finalists, while Brady won the Top Seed Open in Lexington.