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Azarenka could be woman to stand in way of Serena

Victoria Azarenka was born in Minsk, Belarus and lives in Monte Carlo. But she is quickly making New York another home.

Victoria Azarenka was born in Minsk, Belarus and lives in Monte Carlo.

But she is quickly making New York another home.

"I love New York," the world's No. 1-ranked player said after advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Open for the first time with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) victory over defending champion Samantha Stosur in quarterfinal that was interrupted by a 1-hour, 17-minute rain delay after three games in Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I feel like it's a great place, just a beautiful city. It's one of my favorite places in the world."

Next up for the outgoing and charismatic Azarenka, 23, is a semifinal date with either Maria Sharapova or Marion Bartoli on Friday. The Sharapova-Bartoli was postponed by rain until Wednesday with Bartoli leading 4-0 in the first set.

After that, Azarenka could potentially face Serena Williams in the final. Williams, the winner of 14 career majors, is just about everybody's favorite to win her fourth Open and 15th major.

Just ask Stosur, who beat Serena in last year's final en route to her only Grand Slam title.

"I have to say I think she's the favorite to go on and win," Stosur said of Williams, who hasn't dropped a set in the tournament. "I think she's been playing incredible the last few months.

"If anybody's going to beat her they have to play very well, be aggressive, hit winners, not give her anything and try and temper her serve. Serena, when she's on, is pretty tough to beat."

Asked if she, like Kim Clijsters, thought Serena is the best female player ever, Stosur said: "If she's not the greatest, she's definitely right up there with the first few."

Still, if anyone can stop the Serena Express, it might be Azarenka, who won her first and only Grand Slam over Sharapova at the Australian Open in January.

Azarenka maintained her grip on world No. 1 by smacking a forehand winner on match point in the third-set tiebreak and then pumped her fist.

Although she served just one ace in the match (at 5-5, 30-40 in the third set), she used her powerful flat groundstrokes — mixed in with the occasional drop shot — to counteract Stosur's topspin and slice. Azarenka smacked 29 winners against 24 unforced errors, while Stosur had 12 winners against 22 unforced errors.

"She never gives up. She fights very hard every single match she plays and she does it very well," said Stosur, who dropped to 0-7 all-time against Azarenka. "That's probably part of the reason she's No. 1 at the moment. She's one of the players you have to get out there and she barely gives you any points and you have to work hard for every single point you get."

Asked to assess her goals going forward in her career, Azarenka smiled and said, "That's a good question."

"I feel like I will never be satisfied, you know," she said. "That even though I'm doing at the peak of my career right now, I feel like I want to do better, I want to do better."

And even though she's still No. 1 in the world, that's certainly not her focus as this U.S. Open heats up in the city where Azarenka increasingly feels comfortable.

"It means a lot, but it's nothing like lifting a trophy, honestly," Azarenka said. "It's nothing. I cannot compare that feeling to winning a tournament."



Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for coverage of the U.S. Open all tournament long.

 
 
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