Ruthless Serena Williams sets up US Open final with Victoria Azarenka
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Defending champion Serena Williams slugged her way to a US Open title rematch against Victoria Azarenka as the top two seeds scored straight-sets knockouts in their semi-finals on Friday.
World number one Williams thrashed a rattled Li Na 6-0 6-3, overcoming some staunch resistance at the end, while Azarenka returned to the Flushing Meadows final with a 6-4 6-2 win over unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta.
"Just to be able to defend a title for once would be really awesome," said French Open winner Williams, who will get her chance on Sunday after failing to go back-to-back following her 1999, 2002 and 2008 titles in New York.
Although overpowered in the opening set, Li battled valiantly in the second, saving six match points to hold serve before the top seed finally closed the deal on a seventh with an unreturned serve.
"It was a good match. It was tough at the end," Williams said. "I got a little nervous but I was able to close it out."
Former French Open champion Li, China's first semi-finalist at the US Open, admitted that she experienced a bout of nerves when she hit the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
"I should not be, like, nervous because (it was) not (the) first time to play semis," said Li, twice an Australian Open finalist. "But when I walked to the court I was feeling the court (was) so big. I mean, even my side, it was feeling like a football court.
"In the end, finally, I can play tennis," she added with a smile.
Williams, hot off a 6-0 6-0 quarter-final win against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro, had won 24 consecutive games before Li held serve in the second game of the second set.