US Open Tennis 2012 Finals: Keys for Serena Williams to Beat Victoria Azarenka

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07:  Serena Williams of the United States celebrates match point during her women's singles semifinal match against Sara Errani of Italy 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

In a battle of two of the best hard-court tennis players in the world, fourth-seeded Serena Williams will take on top-seeded Victoria Azarenka for the 2012 U.S. Open championship on Saturday.

The American Williams will be making her sixth appearance in the women's final at Flushing Meadows and will look to capture her first title since 2009. To reach her match against Azarenka, the former world No. 1 took down Sara Errani in 64 minutes on Friday, dispatching of the Italian 6-1, 6-2 in a straight-sets victory.

Azarenka had a far more difficult time with her semifinals opponent, third-seeded Maria Sharapova. After going down 6-3 in the first set, the 23-year-old came from behind to win the last two sets in thrilling fashion. The winner of the 2012 Australian Open, Azarenka will look for a hard court Slam sweep on Saturday. 

With a resilient talent standing in her path, it will take a strong effort for Williams to take home her coveted fourth U.S. Open.

Here's a quick look at how she could pull it off. 


Continue Dominant Service Game

En route to her second-straight appearance in the U.S. Open final, Williams has been absolutely sensational serving the ball.

With an astounding 50 aces, Williams has far and away the most of any player in the tournament. Her closest competitor—the ousted Maria Sharapova—has just 37 and Williams is one of just four competitors with more than 30 aces.

Nevertheless, the 30-year-old American matches up against probably the best returner in all of women's tennis in Azarenka. The top-seeded Belarusian star has not simply returned serves better than any other player at Flushing Meadows, she's also won the opposing service points. 

Azarenka's 124 first serve points won is 31 ahead of her closest competitors—Williams and Angelique Kerber.

For Williams to come out on top, she'll have to continue dominating in her first serve, mostly by making Azarenka miss it altogether.


Solid First Service Returns, Force Azarenka to the Net

Williams is known as the hard hitter among these two headed into Saturday, but Azarenka is no slouch in the power department, either.

However, there is more than one way that Williams can use that to her advantage. It's no secret that Azarenka prefers to stay as far away from the net as possible. The Belarusian has ascended to world No. 1 through the sheer force of her baseline game and often relies on her opponents to make mistakes.

If Williams can get Azarenka on the run and force her to the net, she should be able capitalize on a myriad of openings for winners. 

It may not be the American's favorite way to victory, but it's necessary if she wants to continue her dominant run through Flushing Meadows. 


Stay Confident, Calm Under Pressure

Though Williams is one of the best hard-court players in the world and contends regularly, seemingly every year her emotions get the best of her at some point in the tournament. 

Some of Williams' most infamous moments as a player have come at the U.S. Open in the form of meltdowns and tirades. 

It's apparent how badly Williams wants to come away with her fourth championship at Flushing Meadows. Considering her level of dominance thus far, there is little chance that Azarenka can step in the way if Williams keeps her composure.

Nevertheless, if a point or two goes in the wrong direction, we could see Williams get flustered to the point that Azarenka takes advantage and pulls off the upset.