Williams vs. Wozniacki: Friends Fighting for Legacies at 2014 US Open Final

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2014

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"I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to win," is an oft-repeated phrase in reality television and athletic competitions alike.

But at Sunday's U.S. Open final, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will set out to prove that those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

Dear friends off the court, Serena and Wozniacki will have to put their love for each other aside as they step out onto Arthur Ashe Stadium, each hoping to cement her legacy even further. 

While there is always a lot on the line in the final of a Grand Slam, this is a particularly significant match for both women.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05:  Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after defeating Ekaterina Makarova of Russia during their women's singles semifinal match on Day Twelve of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center o
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Serena won her 17th Slam at the U.S. Open last year, but she has been stuck at that lofty number ever since. While she has five titles to her name this season and is still firmly the world No. 1, she hadn't been beyond the fourth round of a major until this week.

She is looking to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 majors, second in the Open Era behind Steffi Graf's 22. At nearly 33, Serena's time to chase history is certainly dwindling, and going an entire season without a major would be a big blow. 

Wozniacki, currently ranked No. 11, is going for history of a different kind. The former No. 1, who finished the 2010 and 2011 seasons on top of the rankings, is still looking for her first major title. If she can achieve that, she would become the first Danish tennis player to win a major. She'd also get a mammoth-sized monkey off of her back.

At one point, the Dane was seen as the leader of her generation in the WTA. However, over the past couple of years, her contemporaries, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, have surpassed her with two majors each. Now, as fit as she's ever been and with the perfect balance of defense and offense in her game, Wozniacki looks poised to regain her throne and challenge for majors for years to come.

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Still, at first glance, this certainly looks like a mismatch. After all, not only does Serena have 17 more Slams than her 24-year-old friend, but she also leads their head-to-head 8-1 and is going for her third U.S. Open title in a row. 

But, as Chris Chase of USA Today's For The Win points out, Wozniacki might not be as overmatched in this final as the numbers suggest:

[T]he former world No. 1 is 19-3 since Wimbledon thanks to a newly aggressive style of play and a burst of bravado. Two of those three losses came to Serena, both at the big U.S. Open tuneups. But rather than being a sign Wozniacki can’t win, those losses show that the opposite. She knows she can win. Wozniacki pushed Serena to three sets in both matches, which gives her the confidence to enter a match with Serena and know that she can win it on her own and not just if Serena has an off day.

It's fair to say that Wozniacki would agree with Chase's assertion.

MIAMI, FL - MAY 30:  Tennis players Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki celebrate with Greg Oden #20 of the Miami Heat after defeating the Indiana Pacers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena o
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"I always believe in myself when I go out to play. I definitely believe that no matter who stands on the other side of the net I can win the match. The last two times I played Serena we played really two tough three-set matches," Wozniacki told the press after her semifinal win, via USOpen.org. "Hopefully for me that would be third time's the charm."

This really has been the summer of Serena and Caroline on the WTA Tour, on and off the court. 

The two have been friends for quite some time. Earlier this year, Serena was lined up to be a bridesmaid in Wozniacki's wedding to Rory McIlroy and was even planning a bachelorette party for her friend.

However, McIlroy abruptly ended their engagement in May, and since then, Wozniacki and Serena have been spending more time together than ever. When they both lost early at the French Open, they heavily documented their time together on the beaches of Miami on social media.

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While neither made it past the fourth round of Wimbledon, both women have played themselves into form this summer. Along with her great record, Wozniacki has one title since Wimbledon, and in that same time frame, Serena is 18-1 with two titles.

"I think regardless, she wants to win her first major," Serena said, as reported by Greg Garber of ESPN.com. "And I'm going to try to win to make some history. We looked forward to this since the draw came out."

As excited as the friends are to play each other on the biggest stage of tennis, there's no doubt that the two pros will only have their own best interests at heart from coin flip to championship point at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday.

But when it is all said and done, the two will come together at the net, embrace and their friendship will return to normal. It only remains to be seen which one will be able to add "2014 U.S. Open champion" to her resume.


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