Ekaterina Makarova beat two-time finalist Victoria Azarenka at the U.S. Open to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tennis tournament for the first time.
Makarova, the No. 17 seed from Russia, beat 16th-seeded Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 6-2 in a one-hour, 27-minute match in Arthur Ashe Stadium at New York’s National Tennis Center. She’s yet to drop a set at the season’s final Grand Slam.
“I’m feeling amazing,” Makarova said in a courtside interview. “Finally, I’m in a semifinal.”
Makarova, a 26-year-old left-hander, broke Azarenka’s serve to win the first set.
The Russian opened a 4-2 lead in the second as Azarenka struggled to maintain her composure. After losing her serve when her shot hit the net and landed out of bounds, Azarenka threw her racket to the ground and then slammed it again by her chair, cracking the frame. She didn’t win another game and will fall out of the top 20 in the world rankings.
After a spokesman for Azarenka said on Twitter that she had played after suffering from food poisoning, Azarenka herself said at a news conference: “You know what? I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“I just want to give credit to my opponent,” Azarenka said. “She played really well today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I’m disappointed. But I feel like I tried my best with whatever I had.”
Makarova will play top seed and two-time defending champion Serena Williams or 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta for a place in the championship match. Unseeded Peng Shuai of China and No. 10 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark reached the other semifinal yesterday.
Williams is 5-0 in career matches against Pennetta, who is looking to equal her best Grand Slam finish, a semifinal U.S. Open loss last year to Azarenka.
Williams, a 17-time major singles champion, is playing tonight in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal this year, ensuring that she’ll remain the world’s top-ranked player when the U.S. Open ends. Her 205 total weeks as world No. 1 ranks fifth on the career list.
The men begin quarterfinal play with two matches today. Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, the No. 3 seed from Switzerland, takes on 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori, who finished his five-set fourth-round win over Milos Raonic at 2:26 a.m. yesterday to tie a U.S. Open record, is the first Japanese man in the tournament’s quarterfinals since Zenzo Shimidzu in 1922. The last Japanese man to reach the semifinals was Ichiya Kumagae in 1918.
No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, plays eighth-seeded Briton Andy Murray, who topped Djokovic in the 2012 final, in the last match tonight. The final two years ago went to five sets and lasted four hours, 54 minutes, tying a record for the U.S. Open’s championship round.