Azarenka may finally provide true test for Serena
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- The U.S. Open women's final has come down to two of the most dominant players this year, but the real question is: Can anyone beat Serena Williams?
The No. 4 seed is playing with precision and intensity but has yet to be really tested. Williams has lost only 19 games, hasn't dropped a set and has been broken just twice in the first six matches of the tournament. Most of her opponents have looked like wide-eyed junior varsity players, but she might just have an opponent worth her mettle in the final.
"I'm going up against the most consistent and the best player this year, being Victoria Azarenka," Williams said.
The only person left who can unseat the 30-year-old Williams from what seems a foregone conclusion is the top-seeded Azarenka, who needed to win two three-set matches -- including the semifinal against Maria Sharapova -- directly before Sunday's final.
Azarenka, 23, has beaten Williams only once in 10 tries, but Williams likes the relatively young player. She even gave Azarenka a fist bump on her way to the locker room after she beat Sharapova.
"I really get along well with Vika," Williams said. "She's a really nice girl to me. After she won her match today, I was walking off the court but I gave her a first bump. I was like, 'Good job.' She's come a long way. She's so young now, and to have such a good career and doing so well is awesome."
After the fist bump, Williams went out and crushed Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2, prompting the Italian to say she gave Williams a clear edge over an admittedly strong Azarenka but, "I think Serena is another level."
Williams is the kind of dominant that can get in an opponent's head well before she takes the court. Azarenka knows she has to wrestle the fastest serve in the tournament, which can reach 124 mph, into submission. But she is going to be a bit more Zen in her preparation.
"When I go to play against her, I don't think that I'm playing against Serena," Azarenka said. "I just try to go the same way and try to focus more on myself. But you definitely know that it's gonna be, you know, a big adversity there on the court against you. You have to be prepared to make sure you want to dig deep and accept the challenge."
Azarenka, who won the Australian Open this year for her first career Grand Slam event title, has had a breakout season. Then again, No. 10 Errani had a great year, too, and still got blown off the court in 1 hour, 4 minutes by the American.
Asked whether she was going to watch tape of previous matches to prepare, Azarenka replied with a laugh, "Well, I don't want to be depressed."
Williams, meanwhile, is in a very different place. The American has memories of holding the U.S. Open trophy up on three occasions, and she wants to return.
"I thought about it," Williams said. "It was an amazing feeling. I definitely want to reach that again. I definitely want to hold that trophy and to lift it up. But I have to play a maximum of three sets, and I have to stay focused on that and the task at hand and play the current No. 1 player in the world.
"So yeah, I have to do the best I can."