By Matt Hill

The U.S. Open Women’s semifinal between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova made some noise today. It wasn’t just the grunting.

Yes, this match was tough to take at times because of the horrendous squeals by both players, but by the third set you just about had to tune that out and appreciate the great tennis that was being played.

Azarenka won the match 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, but more importantly people were talking about women’s tennis and not mentioning the name Serena.

Serena Williams has only lost one match since the French Open and has dominated the summer. Who could forget her 6-0, 6-1 win over Sharapova that won her an Olympic gold in singles.

There’s a good chance, a great chance, that on Saturday night Williams is going to win her 15th major title. As great as that is, we need others to step up and share in some of that spotlight.

Azarenka and Sharapova did just that on Friday. These two European born players gave us a U.S. Open semifinal that we will never forget. This match will be remembered not just for great tennis, but for some odd moments, too.

The grunting episodes were lighting up the twitter scene on Friday. I would rather hear barking dogs all night then listen to those two squeal. Then there was the 10-minute break before the third set. The two players are allowed to take a break after the second set is over if the heat stress index goes above 86.2 degrees. It was 86.7. Be glad they weren’t playing where I live in Tennessee. The high temperature was 95 degrees on Friday.

I found this quite amusing. Why would you get off the court when the temperature wasn’t even 90 degrees? Not surprisingly, Sharapova called for the break. The plan almost worked.

In the third set, these two players played very long games and had tremendous rallies. Friends of mine who I have never heard talk about women’s tennis were speaking about what a high-quality match this was.

By the third set, you had ignored the grunting and were focused on what an outstanding tennis event this had become.

It was a great thing for women’s tennis to experience. There had been a lot of yawners in the tournament and even the three-set matches were not that great.
This match lived up to all expectations and then some. It will definitely be on Tennis Channel in future years as a classic.

Sharapova was broken in another lengthy game to end the match. I think most people didn’t want it to end.

The power of these two women was amazing and the fight they showed was just superb.

After a summer of Serena blowouts, it was absolutely nice to see a match like this between the two players I feel are the two best behind Williams right now.

Sharapova has nothing to be ashamed of. She has had a great summer that includes a French Open championship. With the Roland Garros win, she completed the career grand slam and will go down as one of the all-time greats.

Today though belonged to Azarenka. If she wins over Serena, she really could lay claim to Player of the Year. Don’t count on it. This is Serena’s finest hour and she is ready to take that U.S. Open title back.

However, we can’t forget about the efforts of Azarenka and Sharapova Friday afternoon. They took part in one of the most memorable U.S. Open matches in recent memory.

And it wasn’t because of the grunting.
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Matt Hill is a tennis columnist for Elizabethton (TN) Star. You can reach him by email at mountainsportswriter@yahoo.com

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Filed under: 2012 Tennis Season

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