They’re the only women to reach two Grand Slam finals this season — Azarenka won her second Australian Open championship in January, and Williams won her second French Open trophy in June.
Williams leads the WTA with a career-high-tying eight titles in 2013; Azarenka has three. Azarenka is a tour-leading 31-1 on hard courts.
“She has so much abilities and she has a lot of drive,” Williams said. “So, yeah, I just have to try to just hang in there.”
Hmmmmm. Hang in there?
“I know her game as well as she knows mine. She knows what I do great, what I do bad, and what I can do better. I know the same thing,” said Williams, who has won the U.S. Open four times already but never in consecutive years. “At this point, it’s just all about just playing some tennis now.”
She can earn $3.6 million Sunday, thanks to the winner’s check of $2.6 million, plus an extra $1 million for having won the U.S. Open Bonus Challenge, based on performances during the North American summer hard-court circuit. Azarenka finished second in those standings, so she is line for a $500,000 bonus if she wins the final.
Either way, it seems safe to assume that Azarenka should be capable of providing more of a match than Williams’ previous opponents have during the tournament.
“Azarenka is the closest player to Serena in terms of level,” said Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “Azarenka is a champion, and when it comes to the big matches, she’s always lifting her level. Always. So you have to be ready.”