US Open 2013 Women's Semifinal: Pennetta vs. Azarenka Preview and Prediction

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US Open 2013 Women's Semifinal: Pennetta vs. Azarenka Preview and Prediction
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Victoria Azarenka is in the women’s semifinals at the 2013 U.S. Open, surprising absolutely no one. Her opponent, however, is a shock to just about everyone.

The tournament’s second seed will take on unseeded Flavia Pennetta in one of two semifinal matches on Friday with a trip to Sunday’s finals hanging in the balance.

For Pennetta, it’s a career-defining opportunity that comes on the heels of a wrist injury that robbed her of the chance to play in last year’s U.S. Open. Not only has Pennetta never reached a Grand Slam final before, she’s preparing to play in her first semifinal in the sport’s biggest events.

To get here, the veteran Italian bested fellow-countrywoman Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday. Three previous times the 83rd-ranked player has reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, but she’s now headed to uncharted territory against one of the sport’s hottest players.

That player is Azarenka, who is one win away from a second straight U.S. Open final and perhaps an opportunity to avenge a three-set loss to Serena Williams last year.

The talented 24-year-old improved upon a couple of uneven performances with a dominating showing over Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Belarus native defeated her 48th-ranked opponent 6-2, 6-3 to reach her second Slam final of the year.

Azarenka is now 30-1 on the hard courts this season and is looking to add a third Slam title to her growing resume this weekend.

To do that, however, Vika will have to get past Pennetta, who hasn't lost a set this entire tournament en route to taking out four seeded players in five matches.

Indeed, it may not be the semifinal match most expected, but with the 31-year-old laughing in the face of expectations and Azarenka fighting to live up to them, the stakes will be high when they take the court on Friday.

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