Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - With Serena Williams resting
comfortably atop the women's world tennis rankings for now, can Victoria
Azarenka challenge the mighty American's reign in the near future?
The current world No. 2 and former No. 1 Azarenka believes she's closing the
gap between herself and the 17-time Grand Slam great.
"Serena is playing the best tennis of her life and so am I," Azarenka said
recently. "It's been really noticeable the gap from last year we have in the
matches has minimized. I've beaten her twice this year. No one else has done
that. It's just exciting to be in the era of somebody and competing with
somebody who is considered the best ever and being their toughest opponent."
Sure, Serena is a dominant 13-3 lifetime against Vika, including a laughable
8-0 record in their Grand Slam meetings, but the reigning two-time Australian
Open champ is 2-2 versus the formidable American this year, with all four
meetings, as you would imagine, coming in finals.
Heading into this season, Serena had won nine straight matches against her
Belarusian counterpart, dating back to 2009.
Last year, Serena outlasted Vika in three sets in one of the best-ever women's
finals at the U.S. Open, and the now 32-year-old American powerhouse prevailed
in another tense three-setter in this year's finale in Flushing.
Azarenka actually served for the title in last year's showdown in the Big
Apple, before Serena rallied; and the Minsk native overcame a 1-4 deficit in
the second set of this year's noisy (plenty of unnecessary grunting and
shrieking) final in Queens to force a deciding third.
The 24-year-old Belarusian, however, did beat Serena in hardcourt finals in
Doha and Cincinnati this year, which would suggest that she does indeed have
what it takes to possibly dethrone the champ. I said possibly.
"Serena is the best ever to me," Azarenka said. "I cannot judge somebody who I
never played before, but for me, overall the game of tennis has elevated and
the evolution of the game raised up so much that it's hard to compare."
Azarenka has appeared in four of the last eight Grand Slam finals (2-2), while
Serena has captured four of the last six major championships. Vika has also
appeared in at least the semifinals in seven of the last 10 Slams, including
her first-ever trek in the French Open final four back in June. She still
needs to reach finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where she'd appeared in
back-to-back semis before pulling out of the draw in the second round this
year because of a knee injury.
Having said all that, a slumping Azarenka has had a disappointing fall since
falling at the hands of Serena in New York. The Belarusian, slowed by an
illness, lost to Serena's fading older sister Venus in her first match in
Tokyo last week, and was stunned by German Andrea Petkovic in yet another
event-opening affair in Beijing this week, this after amassing 15 double
If you include the loss versus Serena in Gotham, Azarenka has stunningly
dropped her last three matches on tour, her worst skid since 2010 when she was
ranked outside the Top 10.
Yes, Serena has been dominant, but the Minsk native does appear to be inching
closer. Can she get close enough? Their eight-year age difference would
suggest that it's only a matter of time.
Or is it?
The Sports Network