U.S. Open final preview and pick: Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka

A rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final is on tap for Sunday. Serena Williams will be bidding for a second straight title in New York when she goes up against Victoria Azarenka.

Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka will be squaring off for the 16th time in their careers and for the fourth time this season when they clash in a second consecutive U.S. Open final on Sunday afternoon.

Williams is dominating the head-to-head series 12-3, including 7-3 on hard courts. She triumphed last summer in Flushing Meadows thanks to a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory. Azarenka, however, is 2-1 against Williams this season and she has won each of their past two hard-court encounters. The Belarusian prevailed 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-3 in Doha and 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) last month in Cincinnati.

Of course, Williams’ motivation level at the year’s final Grand Slam appears to be at a different level. The world No. 1 booked her spot in the championship match with straight-set dismissals of Francesca Schiavone, Galina Voskoboeva, Yaroslava Shvedova, Sloane Stephens, Carla Suarez Navarro, and Li Na. Williams, who is 66-4 this season, has won five sets by a 6-0 decision this fortnight–including two against Suarez Navarro and one against Li.

Azarenka, on the other hand, has endured a few hiccups along the way. The second seed has fought past Dinah Pfizenmaier, Aleksandra Wozniak, Alize Cornet, Daniela Hantuchova, and Flavia Pennetta. She lost sets to Cornet and Ivanovic, but none of her last five sets has been closer than 6-4. Azarenka is 42-4 for the year, with three titles compared to Williams’ eight.

The major concern for Azarenka in this one is her inability to hold serve during the U.S. Open. She was broken seven times by Ivanovic, three times by Hantuchova, and five times in nine service games by Pennetta. That will have to change, because as good as the underdog’s return game is, Williams owns the best serve in the history of women’s tennis and there is no reason to think she will get broken more than a few times on Sunday.

Pick: Williams in 2

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