So much for that.
On Friday during their semifinal match, Serena steamrolled the 2011 French Open champion 6-0, 6-3. It was a match that didn't even resemble anything like a much-anticipated showdown.
That's just how good Serena is these days. She makes even great champions seem out of place. She's virtually unstoppable.
Serena has only lost four times all year. However, two of those losses have come against her one remaining opponent, No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, in finals.
Last year, Serena faced Azarenka in the finals of the U.S. Open, and it was a dramatic three-set thriller that saw Serena come back from 2-5 down in the third set. After a slew of lopsided matches between the two, it seemed like Azarenka was finally closing the gap.
The former No. 1 proved that was the case in Doha this year when she took out Serena 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3. She proved that wasn't a fluke last month at the Western & Southern Open when she defeated Serena 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the final.
Azarenka is one of the few players who isn't intimidated when she plays Serena. So while Serena is the favorite in the final, the barrier she has to climb in order to achieve major No. 17 isn't an insignificant one, which Azarenka confirmed with her recent comments, via the official U.S. Open website.
"You've got to fight. You know, you've got to run, you've got to grind and you've got to bite with your teeth for whatever opportunity you have," Azarenka told reporters after her straight-sets semifinal win over Flavia Pennetta. "You know, she's obviously an amazing player. She's the greatest of all time."
Though Azarenka says that Serena is the best player of all time, Serena feels that she still has a long way to go. "I don't think I'm the greatest because Steffi [Graf] has way more Grand Slams than me," she told reporters earlier in the week. "I just go by what's written down."
Though Serena is still a long way away from Graf's haul of 22 major singles titles, she's only two behind Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert at 18. Of course, Margaret Court leads the way with 24.
Serena certainly seems poised to make the climb.
These days, she's more intense and focused than ever on the court, and Serena is clearly really enjoying her time competing more than she ever has.
Last week, she sat down with Andy Roddick for an interview for his new job at Fox Sports Live. Between laughs, she admitted that she has no problem staying motivated. "I play now for history," she said. "And I also play now for fun."
It certainly shows.
2013 has been one of the best years ever for Serena. She already has 66 wins, which is eight more than she's had in any other year in her legendary career, and her eight titles already tie 2002's haul.
The only difference is that in 2002, she won all three majors she played (she missed the Australian Open). This year, two of her four losses have come in majors—she fell to Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and to Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round of Wimbledon.
Even though she clearly values her consistency more than she used to, it would still be a disappointment if she ended this phenomenal season with only one Slam.
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, confirmed as much to Christopher Clarey of the New York Times. “It would be a disappointment if Serena only won one this year,” he said. “We can’t say the contrary."
Serena has been in scary form throughout the Open, failing to drop a set and serving up five bagels along the way. She certainly looks to be in championship form.
Fourteen years ago, Serena started her journey toward greatness when she captured the 1999 U.S. Open title over Martina Hingis.
She was only 17 years old then. Now, she's only one win away from major No. 17.
History, here she comes.
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