It's almost blasphemous to think otherwise—perhaps even cliched—but it's difficult to overlook Serena Williams as the firm favourite to take home the 2012 US Open women's singles trophy Sunday.
Despite the heavy odds she bears with a 25-1 record since the European clay, and a confident record in grand slam finals, one shouldn't entirely dismiss her opponent, the top seeded and top ranked Victoria Azarenka.
The Belarussian princess has only won once against Williams, and that coming on the slower hard courts at Miami. History would suggest that she has enjoyed more success against Williams in tardier conditions - she was close to beating her at the Australian Open in 2010, too, having a set and 4-0 lead in that encounter.
Azarenka will also have gained something of a boost in defeating her greatest rival of 2012, Maria Sharapova, in the semifinals. She certainly has the game to match Williams on Arthur Ashe stadium, and unlike Williams' opponents in her last two slam victories, Azarenka is someone with legitimate credentials. She is, of course, the reigning Australian Open champion.
Serena's last grand slam final came here, last year. If anyone would need to begin a discussion of the points in favour of Williams, let it first be mentioned that repeat losses is something she doesn't do. Unlike even the great Roger Federer, who lost consecutively at grand slam finals, Williams has never lost consecutively in grand slam finals and will surely be primed for redemption after her loss to Samantha Stosur in 2011.
Righteous destiny is not the only thing going for her. It's abundantly clear from the last fortnight, in a tournament when she has not so much as dropped a set so far—while Azarenka has let two slip. Serena has carried much of the confidence she has accrued over the last three months at Wimbledon and the Olympics. The serve is clicking, the movement is back and she exudes once again that queenly aura.
For all the characteristics of greatness that Williams is imbued with—a naturally tennis-friendly physique and a game that is unorthodox but effective enough to put her in a class of her own—the final tomorrow will be a difficult match.
The last finalist in her last US Open victory in 2008, Jelena Jankovic, stands much lower on the tennis hierarchy than Azarenka. The world No. 1 has a very solid, penetrating baseline game that could well hurt Serena on a bad serving day, and indeed by seeding should be favoured.
If ever there were a de facto favourite in women's tennis, however, it would also have to be the inimitable and indomitable Williams. She enters the final tomorrow with the same status, because, truth be told, it's too difficult to look past her in a match of such magnitude.
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