Our guest blogger Omair was correct in his US Open semifinal predictions. He said that Victoria Azarenka would have the edge over Maria Sharapova and take her out in three sets, and that’s exactly what happened in the intense match that absolutely lived up to the expectations, while Serena Williams cruised past Sara Errani in the other semifinal, as fearfully predicted. Let’s see what Omair is saying about the upcoming championships match between Serena and Vika.
A great showdown of two Grand Slam champions, one the winner of the first Grand Slam of the season (Australian Open), the other the winner of the last Grand Slam concluded (Wimbledon), a reigning world No.1 and a deemed world No.1. This will be a rematch of the pair’s last year’s US Open third-round encounter, whose second set was one of the best tennis sets ever.
The pair has already met ten times, with Azarenka managing to win just one of those ten encounters, and winning just one set in the nine encounters she lost. This will be their fourth meeting this year and Serena has won all the previous three in straight sets (however, none of the three were played on hardcourts).
Let’s see the average stats of Serena and Vika in their last five US Open matches leading up to the final:
Azarenka has lost two sets this fortnight, while Williams is yet to lose more than four games in a set. Azarenka has shown the firepower and she tends to push Serena hard, but the match can come down to serve and return, and our stats show that Serena has been better than Vika in both.
Azarenka’s first serve percentage is 9% better than Williams’, but Williams has won 12% more points than Azarenka behind her first serve. In fact, Williams lost just two points on her first serve in her semifinal win over Sara Errani.
Second serve will be one of the key factors. Azarenka has won on average 45% points played behind her second serve, which is 14% less than Williams. Azarenka had trouble winning points on her second serve in her semifinal victory over Sharapova, where she won just 39%. She will have to step it up or Serena will eat her alive.
Serena has been returning quite well throughout the tournament, winning 49% points when returning the first serves of her opponents, 14% more than the points won by her opponent in the championship match. Azarenka, however, has won 3% more points than Williams when returning the second serves of her opponents.
There is one area where Serena lags behind Azarenka considerably, and that is the points played on the net. Errani could not use that to her advantage in her semifinal loss and Azarenka must try to mix things up and make Serena come forward to the net.
Serena has been playing way cleaner matches than Azarenka. Azarenka has +5 winners-unforced errors differential, while Serena has a differential of +14.
Crowd will also be a very important factor here, if Azarenka lets the crowd into the match, she will have trouble, since the crowd will clearly be behind Serena. Azarenka must shut out the crowd and keep herself focused to stand a chance.
Azarenka will have to bring out everything she has in her arsenal to keep Williams at bay from the championship trophy, but we all know that Serena often melts down under pressure here at the US Open (her 2009 and 2011 losses). Azarenka at her best can’t match Serena at her best. Azarenka will either have to plant a seed of doubt in Williams’ mind or will need an off day from Williams to have chance to win the match.
We all know what Williams has to do to win the match, serve her way out of it. The last time the two met at a Grand Slam, Serena won a whole set just by aces, hitting 24 aces in her semifinal victory over Azarenka at Wimbledon this year.
Serena seems to be the obvious favorite and she will be very hungry for the title given her performance here last year in the final, but so is Azarenka, she badly wants to win it.
Serena was quoted as saying that she needs to play Serena tennis to win matches, and she was spot on in her assessment. Azarenka after her semifinal victory over Sharapova said: “When I’m on the court, I feel like I’m in paradise, you know. I’m in that most comfortable place I can be. Why not enjoy it?” Will her comments remain the same after the championship match, or will Serena turn Azarenka’s heaven into hell, only time will tell us.
My pick: Serena Williams in three sets. Do you think Serena’s dominance could face an obstacle? (photos: © Neal Trousdale, Fiji Water)