US Open TennisOn Wednesday at US Open, Russian Ekaterina Makarova stopped Belarusian Victoria Azarenka to set up a semifinal clash with Serena Williams, who won against Italian Flavia Pennetta. Later in the day, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori also reached semifinals to fight each other for a place in the final. With three days remaining, the possibility of Djokovic meeting Roger Federer in men’s final has become real. On women’s side, Serena appears to take her sixth US open crown. For Indian fans, Sania Mirza brought some cheer by her performances in women’s and mixed doubles categories.

In grueling heat, No.16 & 17 seeded women faced each other at Arthur Ashe stadium. Victoria Azarenka had done well in all her previous rounds and the same was true for Ekaterina Makarova. But heat affected Azarenka more than the Russian. After long sabbatical from active tennis, Azarenka wanted to return in style and she nearly succeeded until she reached the quarterfinal stage. On Wednesday, however, she looked subdued, though she had her moments in the first set. After a brief resistance from Azarenka, the set was taken by the Russian 6-4. Once the fight went out of Azarenka’s game, she was literally outplayed in the second set to yield an easy victory for Makarova, who will now face defending champion Serena Williams. In another quarterfinal, Serena Williams crushed Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-2 in 63 minutes, despite strange starts in both sets. In the first, Pennetta, raced to a 3-0 lead in just 8 minutes and even as Italian hopes sored, Serena stormed back to reel 6 games in a row to win 6-3. In the second set too, Pennetta began with a 2-1 lead but again, Serena won five straight games to finish the match.

In men’s quarter-final, Kei Nishikori beat No.3 seed Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in four-and-a-quarter hours to become the first Japanese man to reach US open semi-final in 96 years. In less than 72 hours, Nishikori faced his second five-set battle but the Japanese fought fatigue and Wawrinka to end up the winner. The start was ominous as Nishikori fell behind 0-3 and couldn’t recover. The Japanese played better in the second set and got lucky, when Wawrinka handed him a gift by double-faulting on break point at 5-6. Both third and fourth sets went to tie-breaks. At one stage in third set, Nishikori led 5-3 on his serve but the resolute Wawrinka dragged the set to tie-break, although Nishikori finally won the set. In the fourth set tie-break, Wawrinka built a 4-0 lead but Nishikori fought to make it 4-4. Afterwards, however, Nishikori played some poor shots to allow Wawrinka to level the set score 2-2. The duel continued in the final set as well. On Wawrinka service at 4-5, the Swiss committed a double fault at crunch time to yield two match points, of which the Japanese converted the second to win the match.

Top seed Novak Djokovic inched closer to another title win after beating Scotsman Andy Murray 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. The first two sets hinted of a classic but once the clock struck 12AM, the fatigue began to affect Murray as the sting went out of his serves. Earlier in first set, Murray made a great start and broke Djokovic straightaway. But the Serbian is no easy meat as he responded with breaks of serves and led 4-1. Serving for 4-2, Murray made it 0-30 and just as it looked Djokovic would move to 5-1, Murray clawed back and riding on some unforced errors from Djokovic, leveled the score to 4-4. With both playing great tennis, the set went to tie-break but as Murray momentarily lost control, Djokovic bagged the set in 73 minutes. The second set was similar to first, except that the tiebreak was won by Murray.

The engrossing game soon became a drag after midnight. Murray hit more winners in third set but nullified those with 14 unforced errors. With Djokovic restricting his unforced errors to just 5, he easily took the third set in 36 minutes. The fourth set became an exercise in frustration for both players. While Murray couldn’t freely move, Djokovic failed to convert his chances. They kept holding their serves until Djokovic found a break and won the match.

India’s Sania Mirza is on the threshold of winning her third Grand Slam title in mixed doubles. With her new Brazilian partner Bruno Soares, Sania reached the mixed doubles final beating Taipei’s Yung-Jan Chan and Britain’s Ross Hutchins 7-5, 4-6, 10-7. The Indo-Brazilian pair will meet USA’s Abigail Spears and Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez. It is Sania’s fifth mixed doubles Slam final as she has already won 2009 Australian Open and 2012 French Open with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi. Sania also has a chance to reach the women’s doubles final with Cara Black of Zimbabwe as the pair takes on veteran Martina Hingis and Italian Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals.