By Bob Harlow
BBC Sport, New York
By contrast with his daughter’s tame victory, Williams’ father was cheered to the rafters by the locals
Serena Williams says her father Richard was cheering the same way he used to – by cheering on the little boy from the stands at a state-of-the-art tennis arena. “He’s in the audience, he loves me,” said Williams, who dominated Victoria Azarenka to reach the semi-finals of the US Open. “He loves watching me play. He used to come to my matches and now he comes and watches me play every day.” Williams, who is seeded fourth at Flushing Meadows, beat the Belarussian 6-1 6-3 to book a last-four meeting with 20th seed Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Azarenka and Williams also tangled in the 2009 final at Flushing Meadows, with Azarenka prevailing in four sets, leaving Richard as visibly emotional as ever as his daughter took victory in just 65 minutes. “My dad’s always happy. He’s like a little kid, like five, six years old,” said Serena.
“He follows everything I do. He knows every single rule in this sport and all these tournaments. So every match I play, I just really enjoy it.” She might well have been commenting on a match in which she was barely tested and showed little real respect for her opponent, Azarenka playing like a woman who was simply unaware of her opponent’s supremacy. Azarenka showed no defensive tactics, hitting just three winners and producing a worrying array of unforced errors. She committed a record 61 unforced errors in total, while Williams hit 46 winners and never looked in danger of losing her serve. “I think she just was not on,” Azarenka said of Williams. “It was pretty obvious to everybody. I mean, it’s only me that felt comfortable on the court.” Azarenka was clearly more than happy to depart in such a straightforward manner, with Williams’ dad on his feet as early as game two and again when the American broke in the opening game of the second set to serve for it. But she left the court with a smile on her face and no regrets. “I think I played really good,” Azarenka said. “She played well as well, so maybe next time, maybe we can compete in a true competition. “[Before the match] I told you everything is going to be different because her dad is in the stadium cheering her on. This is going to be the first time that, since I saw her playing in ’09, I’ve ever seen her do this. This was new. “I said beforehand that if I’m not ready mentally to go out there and take her physically when I am on the court and not give her time to feel comfortable or be relaxed then I will do anything, any tactic or tactic, to stop her. “I felt like, unfortunately, I gave her way too much time. I made errors to even the score, because I am supposed to hit the ball to my advantage. And that’s just a minus point. “But the important thing is that I stayed positive in the moment. Even if I was making the mistakes, I felt like I had enough forehands and enough winners to win a match like this.” It was bad news, too, for Azarenka’s sister Venus who could only manage a 6-2 6-4 defeat against fellow American teenager Sloane Stephens. The Stephens sisters first appeared on the circuit together at this event, slotted as part of the ‘NextGen’ group that includes Kim Clijsters, the final match of which will take place on Saturday.
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