NEW YORK: Victoria Azarenka kept chiding herself — “Don’t be a chicken” — while cobbling together a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) rain-interrupted win that eliminated defending champion Sam Stosur and put the top-seeded Belarusian in her first semi-final at Flushing Meadows.
Tuesday’s win also assured Azarenka of retaining the No 1 ranking no matter what happens the rest of this week.
Because of rain that halted play on and off through the day, Azarenka was the only woman who got to enjoy a singles victory at the US Open. The other women’s quarter-final on the schedule was suspended in progress because of rain, and four-time major champion Maria Sharapova was trailing 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli 4-0.
Sharapova got something of a reprieve from the weather during her previous match: She was down 2-0 in the third set against Nadia Petrova when a rain delay of 75 minutes came: After the break, Sharapova took five of the next six games. She’ll get at least 15 hours to contemplate her deficit against Bartoli, who lost all eight sets they had played before Tuesday.
They were allowed to head to their hotels before early because the tournament wanted to free up Arthur Ashe Stadium for the night session and the main event: 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick’s bid to postpone retirement yet again by beating 2009 champ Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round.
The Roddick-del Potro match was also suspended because of rain right after Roddick went ahead 1-0 in a first-set tiebreaker. A little more than a half-hour later, the tournament called off play for the day. Other matches stopped in progress, also in the first, included defending champion Novak Djokovic against No 18 Stanislas Wawrinka, and No 8 Janko Tipsarevic against No 19 Philipp Kohlschreiber.
No 4 David Ferrer was up two sets and 4-3 in the third over No 13 Richard Gasquet when play was halted earlier. After the delay then Ferrer broke Gasquet, closing it out on his fifth match point for a 7-5, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory.
That match, like others this week at Flushing Meadows, took second billing to the one involving Roddick, who surprisingly announced last week that this tournament would be the last of his career. Since then, he picked up victories over players ranked 43rd and 59th, but the No 7-seeded del Potro figured to provide more of a challenge. Del Potro is the only man other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Djokovic to win any of the last 30 Grand Slam titles.
As accomplished as Stosur is, she never had taken so much as a set off Azarenka in six previous tour meetings, including one match in qualifying. That changed in second set, although forcing a third might not have given Stosur all that much self-belief. And in the end, Azarenka improved to 11-0 in three-setters this season, while Stosur fell to 9-7.