Azarenka set for U.S. Open showdown with Serena

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Victoria Azarenka is headed to another U.S. Open showdown against Serena Williams with a shot at the final on the line.

Azarenka beat 16th-seeded Elise Mertens 6-1, 6-0 at Flushing Meadows and advanced to the semifinals to play the six-time U.S Open champion.

Williams needed three sets to knock off Azarenka in the 2013 final. Williams also won the 2012 final in three sets in a match that saw Azarenka ahead 5-3 in the third set and serving for the match.

Williams trailed by a set and a break against Tsvetana Pironkova before coming back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Azarenka, one of nine mothers in this year’s field, won the Open-tuneup Western & Southern Open for her 21st career title. She made her first U.S. Open semifinal since 2013 and eighth overall.

Azarenka used a big serve to beat Mertens and she’ll need it again to have a shot against Williams. Williams has an 18-4 career edge against Azarenka.

Azarenka has two major championships to Williams’ 23.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.