Azarenka vs. Williams: Why Serena Won't Just Coast to U.S. Open Title

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07:  Maria Sharapova of Russia returns a shot during her women's singles semifinal match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Day Twelve of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

After watching her dominate, subjugate and obfuscate Sara Errani into submission, it would be easy to just hand Serena Williams the U.S. Open trophy and get it over with.

But, in the words of the immortal Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friend.

Standing in Serena's way is 23-year-old Victoria Azarenka––the No. 1 seed and a personification of the young guard coming to dethrone Williams from her perch atop the women's tennis world.

The general consensus is that Serena, who just pounded her semifinal opponent into submission, will be too much for Azarenka, who had to claw her way back in her semifinal match. The general consensus is that Serena, when she plays like this, is rarefied from the rest of her competition.

And while the empirical data supporting that claim is hard to refute (did you see her play in the Olympics?) it ignores the parity that makes tennis, and sports in general, such a beautiful concept to begin with.

Two sets. 12 games. 48 points. When you've made it this far, that's all it takes to win one of these bad boys. That's all it takes for an upset to occur.

Victoria Azarenka has clawed her way to the No. 1 seed in the U.S. Open. She won the Australian Open earlier this year. Is it really that inconceivable for her to win 12 games? Even against a slightly better opponent?

Not enough? How about this––take a look at some highlights from Azarenka's history against Williams:

2009 Australian Open: (13) Azarenka took the first set from (2) Williams, before eventually having to retire due to heat stress. The score was 6-3, 2-4. 

2009 Sony Ericsson Open: (11) Azarenka def. (1) Williams 6-3, 6-1. 6-3, 6-1!!

2010 Australian Open: (1) Williams def. (7) Azarenka 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. Azarenka surrendered a four-game lead in the second set.

Am I being insanely selective with those examples? Most certainly. Serena has, over the fullness of time, dominated Azarenka, including an embarrassing massacre in the semis of the Olympics.

My point is not that Azarenka will beat Serena––gun to my head, I pick Williams in a heartbeat. My point is that Azarenka can beat Serena.

There's a reason she's No. 1. There's a reason she was able to either defeat, or almost defeat, Serena several times before she was even old enough to drink (in our country, at least).

My point is that tennis, as a sport, allows for some randomness, some chaos. And while Serena will be the better player on the court, Azarenka will not curl up in a ball for her and take her whooping. She's gonna fight.

And if she does, then, to be completely honest....anything can happen.