NEW YORK — Normally so good, so gritty, in the crucible of the third set, Maria Sharapova finally met her match against Victoria Azarenka.
Coming all the way back from a set and a break down, the top-seeded Azarenka prevailed in a stirring third, beating four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, on Friday to reach her first U.S. Open final.
“This one didn’t go my way,” Sharapova said. “Frustrating, but it’s the game of tennis. A lot of swings in the match today. Certainly had the lead and the advantage.”
Entering Friday, Sharapova was 12-0 in three-setters this year, and had won 78 consecutive matches in which she took the opening set, a streak dating to 2010. But Azarenka broke in the last game to push her own 2012 record to 12-0 in matches that went the distance.
“I didn’t know that statistic,” Azarenka said. “It’s pretty good.”
Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, will play in her second major final of the season – and career – today and will try to stop 14-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams’ strong run. Seeking a fourth title at Flushing Meadows, the fourth-seeded Williams wasted little time or energy while overwhelming 10th-seeded Sara Errani of Italy, 6-1, 6-2.
The entire match lasted 64 minutes – or 10 minutes fewer than the third set between Azarenka and Sharapova.
“It’s stressful against her,” Errani said. “She puts a lot of pressure on you.”
Williams, trying to become the first 30-year-old woman to win the U.S. Open since Martina Navratilova in 1987, had a 38-6 edge in winners against Errani. Since a surprising exit at the French Open in late May, her only first-round loss in 49 major appearances , Williams is 25-1, including a title at Wimbledon and gold medal at the London Olympics.
Williams has a 9-1 career record against Azarenka.
“I’ve got to do something different, to be honest,” Azarenka said.
The men’s semifinals today feature heavy favorite Novak Djokovic, the defending champ and winner of five Grand Slam trophies, facing off against fourth-seeded David Ferrer. The winner goes against either Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray or Tomas Berdych.
BRYAN BROTHERS SET DOUBLES RECORD
Bob and Mike Bryan won the U.S. Open men’s doubles title Friday for a record 12th Grand Slam championship.
The American twins had been tied with Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde for the most in the Open era, which started in 1968.
The second-seeded Bryans beat Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek, 6-3, 6-4. That team had defeated them in this year’s Australian Open final as they chased the record.
The brothers had been stuck on 11 since 2011 Wimbledon. The last year they failed to win at least one major title was 2004.
The Bryans also tied the Open-era record with their fourth U.S. Open championship, matching Bob Lutz and Stan Smith.