The women's bracket of the 2013 U.S. Open had plenty of surprises, but the tournament will finish as many expected when No. 1 Serena Williams clashes with No. 2 Victoria Azarenka on Sunday.
This year at Flushing Meadows, Williams has been nothing short of dominant at the age of 31. She looks rejuvenated and touts the bracket's strongest serve and a world-class return.
Meanwhile, Azarenka has had an up-and-down tourney, losing sets in both her third and fourth matches, but she enters the final well-rested after regaining her dominant form.
Historically, Williams owns Azarenka in head-to head play with a 12-3 record, but things have taken a turn in the Belarusian's favor as of late. The 24-year-old has won two of their last three contests.
As dominant as Williams has been this year with her 60-4 record and eight singles titles entering the tournament, the tide of the battle between her and Azarenka has taken a turn.
There's only one thing Williams needs to worry about in order to avoid an upset—the serve.
It's as simple as that.
When Azarenka last defeated Williams, she tallied a 73 first-serve percentage to the American's 59 percent. Azarenka won at least 56 percent of service points against Williams in her two victories over Serena this year.
In other words, Williams needs to get off to a hot start and dominate at the point of attack. Azarenka has had to overcome deficits in the tournament against Ana Ivanovic and Alize Cornet, but doing so against Williams is a tougher hill to climb.
Azarenka did manage to pull off a comeback after Williams won the first set of their match in Cincinnati, but Williams is playing at a much higher level now. An early lead would give her a mental edge that will be difficult to overcome.
That's the exact formula that she has followed to this point in the tournament: Get off to a hot start and be unstoppable in the return game.
Furthermore, Azarenka has never defeated Williams in a Grand Slam event. That, paired with the fact that Williams eliminated Azarenka from the last two U.S. Open events, means that the mental edge has to be in Serena's favor, despite the recent losses on hard courts.
The 17th Grand Slam for Williams is within reach. Her final task is to avoid an upset by continuing to do what she has done all tournament.
Sounds easy enough.
Prediction: Williams, 6-2, 6-4.
Note: All statistics courtesy of WTATennis.com.
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