Serena faces Azarenka for US Open women's title
NEW YORK - Serena Williams has overpowered every rival at the US Open, showing no mercy to a world-class field that has been unable to slow an American juggernaut that appears bound for her 15th Grand Slam title.
The three-time US Open champion has dropped only 19 games in six rounds, never suffering a break of serve while blasting a tournament-best 50 aces in only six hours and 37 minutes on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
And US fourth seed Williams, the reigning Wimbledon and Olympic champion, owns a 9-1 career record against World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, her admittedly outmatched opponent in Saturday's championship match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"If you look at our record it says it all," Azarenka said. "I haven't won in any last meetings so I definitely need to find something to surprise her because she's in a great form, feeling really confident right now.
"She has everything on her side."
Looking for the treble
Williams, who was upset in last year's US Open final by Australian Samantha Stosur, is trying to match her older sister Venus and Steffi Graf as the only women to claim the Wimbledon-Olympic-US Open treble in the same year.
"It will probably be the best summer I've ever had," Williams said. "If you win the Olympics and Wimbledon and this, it would be kind of cool. So, yeah, it will be awesome."
Williams won her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open at age 17 and hoisted the trophy in 2002 and 2008 as well. She recalled those on-court celebrations as motivation this time after falling one match short last year.
"It was an amazing feeling. I definitely want to reach that again," Williams said. "I definitely want to hold that trophy and to lift it up."
Azarenka never went deeper than the US Open fourth round until now.
"I try to enjoy my moment. I don't want it to end," Azarenka said. "I'm living this great run, great opportunities coming to me I just want to continue and enjoy that ride. When I'm on the court I feel like I'm in paradise."
It could be Paradise Lost when Hurricane Serena strikes.
Bad record for Azarenka
Since Azarenka collected her only triumph over Williams in a 2009 Miami final, the 23-year-old from Belarus has lost seven times in a row, including a Madrid final and Wimbledon and Olympic semi-finals earlier this year.
"You definitely know that it's going to be a big adversity," Azarenka said. "You have to be prepared to make sure you want to dig deep, and accept the challenge.
"I have to try to return well and serve because with Serena it's not really the long rallies, it's all about who grabs the first opportunity, who is more brave to step up right from the beginning."
Reigning Australian Open champion Azarenka laughed when asked if she might study videos of their past matches for a clue on how to defeat Williams.
"Well, I don't want to be depressed," Azarenka said. "There's not really something that you can look at.
"I've got to do something different, to be honest, because the other times didn't really work for me. I definitely have to try to make sure that I'm the one who dictates the play and try to control the match as much as possible."
Azarenka took hope in having lost by only 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) at Wimbledon.
"The match was a lot closer. There were opportunities for me to step it up," Azarenka said.
In an Olympic rematch on the same grass last month, she took only three games off Williams.
"I'm not going to go on court and say, 'Oh, I wish I can win more games than I won last time,'" Azarenka said. "Definitely going with the mentality to win. There is no other way."
Williams tried to paint herself as an underdog given Azarenka's top ranking.
"I'm going up against the most consistent and the best player this year, being Victoria Azarenka," Williams said. "I feel like I don't have anything to lose, and it will be a good challenge for me.
"I always believe that I'm the best, obviously. I mean, on paper I think, she has been more consistent, going much deeper in the Slams than I have."
Maria Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning this year's French Open but lost to Azarenka in the semi-finals on Friday, sees no reason why the ponytailed top seed cannot pull off a shocker just as Stosur did a year ago.
"She's No. 1 in the world," Sharapova said. "There's no reason why she shouldn't have a chance." - Agence France-Presse