Pennetta v Azarenka: Italian underdog can take first set

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Flavia Pennetta has been at her very best to reach her first ever Grand Slam semi final, but world number two Victoria Azarenka has the pedigree to progress.

After appearing to lose focus slightly in rounds three and four, double Australian Open champion Azarenka returned to her fearsome best when blowing away Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-3 in the quarters.

Like all of the world’s top players, and Azarenka certainly fits that category, she has got the game for the grand occasions, as she proved once more by beating her nemesis Serena Williams in the final of the Cincinnati Masters leading into the US Open.

At 31, Pennetta is enjoying something of a late blossom to her career and is someone who will look to force mistakes by staying in rallies for as long as possible.

But, if she is to prevent the most likely outcome of a straight-sets defeat – at 8/15 with Ladbrokes – then she’ll need to start brightly.

If Azarenka is able to settle and find her range from the baseline then the Italian will be vulnerable to a swift exit, though she can take heart from the fact the Belarusian was forced to come back from a set down against both Ana Ivanovic and Alice Cornet.

It’s a really tough ask for Pennetta to take the first set. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting she is yet to drop a set en-route to this semi at Flushing Meadows and also took the opener when beating Azarenka in their only other duel on this surface back in 2011.

This gives the 11/4 on the Italian to put the first set on the board some genuine appeal, while the 11/2 on Vika to drop the first set, but still win the match, is a possible market to exploit also.

Those going for the safety first approach however, need look no further than 1/5 on Vika to book her final ticket.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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