via David Goldman AP
Top seed. Top ranked. Best (you could say the only) server in the WTA. Serena Jameka Williams finds herself right back where she was about this time last year. Can anyone argue about how dominating she's been over the last couple of weeks? She's overcome shitty scheduling (although to be honest it was better for her to play her doubles semi yesterday and take advantage of two full days off) and wannabes who don't have half of her work ethic.
Some in tennis are arguing over whether or not she's changed her game, the effect of Patrick Mouratoglou not only on her game but on court demeanor, and where she stands among the all time greats, an argument that is silly because you can only be great in the generation in which you played but people indulge in it anyway.
My opinion? Serena has changed her game. She had to. She's 31 now. She's had health problems that would've seen some cowering in the corner and making excuses about losses. Did Patrick initiate the changes? I think he gave her the confidence to proceed with what she had to do. There is no doubt her footwork has improved. That has led to improved movement on court. She is also obviously out thinking her opponents and adjusting her play during a match. That was obvious in how she adjusted to an inspired Li Na in the second set Friday afternoon. The commentators were too busy chit chatting about who knows what and never once commented on how she stepped in on Li's second serves in that set. I guess they figured their conversation was more important than the match. Or they still see her the way she was ten years ago. I really think that American commentators have no idea how to call a match if a player isn't a servebot. Increasingly that means that they know how to call a John Isner match but not any others since players are moving away from that style of play.
But none of that detracts from what Serena brings to the WTA now. She's a mature, confident, more than competent player at the moment. She's also going to be fully rested on Sunday.
via Emmanuel Dunand Getty
Victoria Fiodorovna Azarenka is ranked #2 in the WTA. Has she earned it? Yes she has. For the first time in a long time there is no dispute about the top two in the WTA. Victoria has won Slams. She's beaten players she should beat. She is never going to win Miss Congeniality for her on court behavior but is she talented? Yes. Does she have the will to win? Definitely.
There was quite a bit of controversy this US Open about her raising her racquet every time one of her opponents in order to disrupt her serve. It wasn't a ten minute medical time out to stop her from choking away a match but it's one of the reasons fans have not warmed up to Azarenka. It didn't start with the medical time out fiasco though. For me it started when she threw a tantrum in Australia a few years back and went after the chair umpire and almost hit a lines person. She doesn't do things like that anymore but it can be said that she "cheats within the rules".
That said she's made it to the US Open Final for the second year in a row, doing it while not playing her best tennis. Her semifinal against Flavia Pennetta showed that she doesn't need to resort to cheating in order to win. She worked Pennetta over, not letting her set up so that she could get off her best shot combination while moving her all over the court and tiring her out. But Azarenka's serving was awful. If she didn't execute the rest of her game she would've been in trouble. The first set was one of the worst I've seen in a semifinal match. Break after break after break.
I don't do predictions. I will say that the USTA, by making sure that both players are equally rested coming into the Final has done one of the best things it could do not only for players but for the sport. It should be a good match.