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Azarenka Holds Off Defending Champ Stosur, Advances To Semifinal

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka was pushed to the limit by defending champion Sam Stosur before winning in a third-set tiebreaker at the U.S. Open quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Azarenka eked out a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) victory in 2 hours, 23 minutes — not including an early 76-minute rain delay. She had never lost even a set to the Australian in six previous meetings, but Stosur rallied time and again after a lopsided first set.

“She played amazing,” Azarenka said. “So much higher, the level was today. Again made me play my best tennis. I was hoping for a few outs, but she kept hitting the lines. … I kept saying, ‘Miss, miss.’ She didn’t want to, I guess.”

The rain returned soon after she closed out the win, delaying the start of the match that will determine Azarenka’s semifinal opponent between Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli.

In a men’s fourth-round match, David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet were stopped in the third set with the fourth-seeded Spaniard leading 7-5, 7-6 (2), 2-2.

The seventh-seeded Stosur came back from down a break twice in the third set. Then in the tiebreaker, she recovered from trailing 4-0 to tie it at 5.

Azarenka, the Australian Open champ from Belarus, never wavered. Her final forehand touched down on the baseline, forcing Stosur into a wild backhand.

“I have no words,” Azarenka said. “I think we both showed some excellent tennis. You could feel the pressure all the time. We really both gave it all and we fought really hard, (kept) making each other run like crazy.”

Azarenka improved to 11-0 in three-set matches this year. She had never before made it past the fourth round at the U.S. Open.

Azarenka kept Stosur on the run in the first set, breaking her three times. But in the second, Stosur started channeling the aggressive play that allowed her to upset Serena Williams in the final here last year, pounding big forehands for winners.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)