By G9ija

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka set up a semi-final showdown Thursday night with Serena Williams after an impressive win over Elise Mertens at the US Open in New York.

Azarenka was in blistering form in a 6-1 6-0 thrashing of Belgian 16th seed Mertens in just 73 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.

The two-time Australian Open winner reached an eighth career grand slam semi-final and first since making the decider in New York in 2013.

Azarenka moved into a last-four meeting with Williams, who overcame Tsvetana Pironkova earlier on Wednesday.

Williams has won 18 of their previous 22 meetings, although Azarenka is riding a 10-match winning streak after claiming the Western & Southern Open title.

The Belarusian is excited about the encounter.

“I love playing against Serena. I think we have one of the best matches – at least that I played in my career – against her,” Azarenka told a news conference.

“We always played on big stages. It was a lot of big fights. She’s one of the players who push me to the limit, who makes me better. I’m excited for that.

While Williams is chasing a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title, Azarenka will go into the meeting on the back of 10 straight wins.

Asked why she enjoyed playing the American so much, Azarenka said: “It’s very simple: I like playing against the best. That’s where you see yourself, your level, the biggest challenge.

“That’s what I’m working hard for, to play on the biggest stages against the best players. There’s no one as tough mentally as Serena. I love that challenge.”