NEW YORK — If there’s a player out there who could possibly test No. 1-seeded Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final, it’s her opponent today — No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.
Williams, it’s worth noting, has lost only four of 70 matches this season, and two of those defeats came against Azarenka, including just last month at a hard-court tuneup.
There’s one significant switch in circumstances: Those were at smaller tournaments. This time, there’s a major championship on the line, and Williams is at her best when the stakes are the biggest.
“Different energy, different opportunities. This is for a Grand Slam,” Williams said. “I mean, she’s trying to win yet another one; I’m trying to win one myself. It’s just different.”
Williams will be playing in her third consecutive U.S. Open final, seventh overall, and the 21st major title match of her career. She is 16-4, two Grand Slam titles away from two of the greats of the game: Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who each won 18. The only women with more are Margaret Court with 24, Steffi Graf with 22, and Helen Wills Moody with 19.
“Yeah, I thought about that,” Williams said, “but I can’t think about that. It’s still so close, but it’s still so far.”
If there were any questions about what Williams considers the truest measure of success in tennis, she made clear how she feels when she was asked to pick between Roger Federer, who owns 17 major trophies, or Rafael Nadal, who has 12.
“I go by numbers,” Williams responded. “I don’t think I’m the greatest, because Steffi has way more Grand Slams than me. I just go by what’s written down.”
Most of the numbers, from their careers and these two weeks, favor Williams over Azarenka.