US Open Tennis 2013: Critical Info for Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 18:  (L-R) Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus share a laugh after their Women's Singles final match during the Western & Southern Open on August 18, 2013 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The two top-ranked tennis players will clash in Queens for the U.S. Open championship.

After a long ride, with a few upsets along the way, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka survived two weeks of tennis to set up a rematch of last year's Open, when Williams bested Azarenka and captured her 15th Grand Slam title.

One year later, little has changed. Williams and Azarenka enter the final showdown brandished with the same No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, only this time Williams has 16 major trophies to her credit.

Somehow the 31-year-old Williams is only improving with age, dismantling the field without dropping a single set. While Azarenka was taken to the wire in the third and fourth rounds, she hit her stride in the latest matches, most recently handling Flavia Pennetta in two sets during the semifinals.

Who will leave New York with the trophy in hand? Here is all the information you need leading up to the highly-anticipated U.S. Open finals showdown.


Where: USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

When: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Watch: CBS



Top Storyline: Can Azarenka Cool Down Williams?

Nobody has come even close to ousting Williams thus far, so Azarenka has her work cut out for her.

The closest any competitor has come to claiming a set was Sloane Stephens, who fell 6-4 to start the match before Williams decisively snatched the second set at 6-1. After that, Williams demolished Carla Suarez Navarro (on the poor girl's birthday no less), winning with two double bagels.

ESPN Stats & Info counted a resounding streak of consecutive games won starting with her triumph over Stephens.

While Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka needed 21 minutes to finish a game, Williams sealed her semifinals victory over fifth-seeded Li Na in less than one hour.

Williams has manhandled her opposition with towering efficiency, winning 88 percent of her first-serve points and 80 percent of her net points against Suarez Navarro. Against Stephens, Williams claimed 11 of 19 points on second serves.

Azarenka has prevailed over Williams twice this year, most recently beating her in Cincinnati during the Western & Southern Open. The 24-year-old also topped Williams in Qatar, giving her the upper hand in their last two hard-court sessions.

On the year, Azarenka is the queen of hard courts, going 31-1 on the surface.

The bigger picture is that Williams is 12-3 in their head-to-head bouts.

One of those victories occurred last year at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Azarenka had Williams on the ropes before watching a 5-4 advantage vanish during the deciding set.

Now a year wiser, Azarenka could push her foe to the brink yet again with an impressive return game that must be on full display. She needs to regain command of her serve after breaking six times against Pennetta.

Azarenka can often slither by on pure talent even on an off day, but that won't work against the world's premier women's tennis star. She must exhibit a flawless effort in order to capture her first U.S. Open crown.

Prediction: Azarenka will provide Williams with her toughest challenge of the tournament, but a red-hot Williams will prevail in three hard-fought sets.