Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

Serena, Azarenka come full circle

NEW YORK — Serena Williams will have something to prove when she clashes with Victoria Azarenka in today's U.S. Open final after losing two of her past three matches to the Grand Slam tournament's second seed.

Azarenka beat Williams, the Open's top seed, in Doha, Qatar, in February and in the Cincinnati hardcourt final last month. Her loss was in a Rome final on clay.

"In both matches (Azarenka) played really well," Williams said of her losses. "I let myself down at opportunities, and I didn't take them.

"When she plays me, she plays her best, by far. I have seen her play other players, and when I play her, I'm playing a totally different player. Obviously she brings her best game."

Williams, in her third straight U.S. Open final, is bidding for a fifth U.S. Open trophy. She beat Azarenka in last year's final.

Azarenka is aiming for her second major title this season after winning the Australian Open for the second straight year. She said she carries no bad memories of her U.S. Open loss last year, in a match she pushed to a third set and was two points from victory. Williams won the last four games.

"I feel like I'm a better player (than a year ago), I'm a more complete player," Azarenka said.

Through six matches at this Open, Williams has won every set, losing a total of 16 games. Only once in the past 25 years has a woman dropped fewer games through six full matches en route to a major final (Mary Pierce dropped 10 at the 1994 French Open, then lost the final.)

Azarenka has lost two sets and 40 games. Her serving has been particularly shaky: 31 double-faults, 10 aces, 20 breaks. Williams has been broken twice.

"Serena and I each other pretty well," Azarenka said. "I know her strengths; she knows my strengths. That's what it's all about, about those turning points, who wants it more, who's willing to go for it more."

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