Five thoughts on the women’s final at the US Open: Serena Williams versus Victoria Azarenka:
What’s the best possible storyline here for an American – and world – audience? That Serena flips once again, receives a code violation or two, but this time she holds herself together just enough to win the US Open, wrapping herself in the cloak of controversy and the Stars and Stripes? Someone said to Williams after her semi-final victory over Italy’s Sara Errani: “For once nothing weird or distracting has happened here.” Her reply: “Hey, it’s not done yet.” There’s no gold star for good behaviour.
The day after Azarenka won this year’s Australian Open, which was her first slam, she flew to Los Angeles to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show. But no one ever achieves tennis superstardom in America without winning the US Open. Beating a Williams sister in the final would also help. Williams has confirmed this year that she’s the most dominant player of her generation. If Azarenka were to win a second slam, she would show that she’s a worthy world number one.
Was Serena’s first-round defeat at the French Open, to Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano, the best thing that ever happened to the American? Razzano has told The New York Times that Serena’s “still bitter”. Since that day in Paris, Williams has won Wimbledon and the Olympics (to complete a career golden slam for singles) and is now just two sets away from scoring the US Open, too. She has also been giving Razzano dirty looks (according to Razzano). “It’s like I gave her a big slap. I saw her at Wimbledon, and she gave me a very dark look. I think she was still bitter and had not processed her defeat,” Razzano said. “I can understand why. Then I saw her again here, and you know what? She’s still bitter. Either she drops her eyes, or she looks at me, and the look basically says, ‘I can’t wait to play you again, and this time I will take my revenge.’ It’s not that she will try to take it. It’s that she will take it. Or at least that’s my interpretation. That’s Serena. But it’s also that, to be a champion.” Serena said: “As much as I hate to lose, sometimes it’s good for my game and my motivation, so I think for sure that loss helped me.”
Azarenka is going to have to play some of the best tennis of her life in her first US Open final if she is to beat Williams. She won’t lack for intensity as we saw with her victory over Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, the first time all season that the Russian had lost a three-setter.
If the hindrance rules are applied as strictly in this year’s women’s final, as they were during last year’s, when Williams lost a point for shouting out “C’mon” during a rally, this will all be over within minutes. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But what’s more distracting for an opponent, the occasional primal roar from Williams, or the contant shrieking from Azarenka? Something to discuss beneath the Arthur Ashe Stadium, in a sound-proofed room.