Rafael Nadal, Victoria Azarenka cruise into US Open semis

Rafael NadalRafael Nadal of Spain returns a volley to compatriot Tommy Robredo during their men's quarter-final match at the US Open tennis championships in New York September 4, 2013 (Reuters)

Victoria Azarenka struck a blow for the younger generation by beating Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-2 6-3 to join a trio of 31-year-olds in the semi-finals of the US Open on Wednesday. Also Read: Sania-Zheng beat Wimbledon champions to enter semis

The 24-year-old Belarusian, the second seed and runner-up last year, will play unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta, while defending champion Serena Williams meets Li Na of China in Friday's semi-finals.

Pennetta reached her first grand slam semi-final on Wednesday by beating longtime friend and Fed Cup team mate Roberta Vinci, the 10th-seeded 30-year-old, 6-4 6-1.

On the men's side second seed Rafael Nadal continued his remarkable 2013 form, improving his hardcourt record to 20-0 with a 6-0 6-2 6-2 hammering of fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Also Read: In absence of Federer, Wawrinka carries Swiss hopes

Next up for Nadal is France's Richard Gasquet, who will be playing in the semi-final stage of a slam for the first time since Wimbledon in 2007.

Azarenka is well aware she is battling the 'old guard' in last four. Also Read: Djokovic, Serena fire warnings

"I'm a baby, what can I say?" she added. "It's amazing to see such great players in the semi-finals."

The victory moved Australian Open champion Azarenka one step closer to a possible Arthur Ashe Stadium rematch against Williams for the title.

"It's amazing to see athletes doing so well, their careers longer so fans and themselves can enjoy their careers much better," she said. "Everybody looks much fitter, really taking care of their body and taking the sport to the next level." Also Read: Paes, Stepanek battle into semis

Robredo had spoiled what would have been the first meeting at the US Open between Nadal and all-time grand slam king Roger Federer after the 31-year-old Spaniard sent the Swiss master packing in straight sets in the fourth round.

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