1 Serena Williams vs. 2 Victoria Azarenka
This was so much fun. Why not do it again?
I just wrote a column about Serena Williams being the third greatest female singles player of all time who is quite likely to reach #2 or higher. One might expect my prediction to be a coronation for Serena. (Spoiler alert) That is not how I see things working out today. Here is my analysis prior to my prediction.
The Front Runner
Like most great players Serena is an incredible frontrunner
Serena Williams said in her post match press conference that her focus and intensity would be different in a Grand Slam final than it was in her most recent hard court losses to Azarenka. This path to victory would see Serena jumping out to an authoritative lead imposing her will on the match via big serves and nasty ground strokes. Once Serena establishes a lead, this should demoralize her opponent and allow her to swing more freely. Both of those trends would lead a quick lead turning into an avalanche of momentum crushing Serena’s opponent.
These matches were eerily similar
Their match in Doha came right after Serena sprained her ankle in Melbourne so I am not putting a lot of stock in Vika’s 2013 win in Qatar. Their 2013 Cincinnati match followed a similar pattern to the 2012 US Open final. Serena won in 2012 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. Vika won in the Queen City 2-6, 6-2, 7-6. I am sure Victoria would love to jump out to a lead, but I think her most likely path of victory is to offer resistance in the face of an early storm. If Vika serves well enough and runs enough, I think the match starts to swing in favor of the younger player.
What is on the Line?
Serena has won so many events in 2013 that the #1 ranking is hers regardless of the result of today’s match. The #1 player in the locker room or who is the most intimidating player on tour well that title is up in the air to an extent. If Victoria Azarenka wins 2 of the 4 slams in 2013 she has a claim to make even with Serena dominating so much of the tour this year. Both players are aware that this match has a lot to say on who is the standard bearer for the WTA. How either react to this reality and to the rematch quality of this showdown is the x-factor today.
I think Vika has less pressure on her, but she also has a belief that she can beat Serena on hard courts. I think this match goes 3 sets and swings in favor of the younger player. If Vika falls a large part will be that her serve is not on par with Serena’s, but I think her defense and offense are capable of making age a slight factor and that slight edge may be all she needs. My pick: Victoria Azarenka defeats Serena Williams 3-6, 6-4, 6-3