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Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka ready for battle at U.S. Open

NEW YORK — It was the most memorable women's tennis match played in the last year, Serena Williams' comeback from 5-3 down in the final set to beat Victoria Azarenka in the finals of the 2012 U.S. Open and win her 15th major title and fourth Open, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

The two will meet again Sunday, Williams seeded No. 1 and Azarenka No. 2, in the Open finals.

Williams will be aiming for her 17th major championship, having earned a French Open title since last September. Azarenka successfully defended her Australian Open title in January.

"We always have really good matches," Williams said. "It's great to get her in another final. She's a great player and she lifts her game when it really counts.

"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. At this point, it's just all about playing some tennis now."

Azarenka's thoughts were similar. "The battles we've had, it was just really taking each other out of the most comfortable zone and fight for everything," Azarenka said. "We know each other pretty well. I know her strengths, she knows mine."

Williams, from Compton, is 31. Azarenka, from Belarus, is 24. Williams has a 12-3 career advantage over Azarenka, but Azarenka has won two of their last three meetings, including the final big warmup in Cincinnati before the U.S. Open.

Former player Pam Shriver, now a television analyst, said the decision on who wins rests with Williams.

"The standard Serena has been playing, consistently dominant in this tournament, every match in her hands, she just needs to keep her same routine," said Shriver, noting that Williams had lost her serve only twice and lost no sets in six matches.

Shriver also said, almost word for word, what had been said by Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. Saturday, while Serena and her sister Venus were losing the women's doubles final, Mouratoglou said Azarenka was the only woman "who truly believes she can beat Serena. That confidence means everything."

Shriver agreed: "Azarenka goes in with great confidence, she's beaten her in the last final. But she's smart. She knows Serena is playing better than in Cincinnati.

"What she can't do is press herself to her best level. She just has to play and accept that at her best level she can beat Serena."

Shriver said to watch Williams' serve and forehand early. "Vika needs to see what that forehand is doing. If the flow is not good, that's a great sign for Azarenka," Shriver said. "Serena's serve is a threat to everyone, but Azarenka is the women's greatest returner. Azarenka has to be aware of patterns in Serena's serve."

Said Azarenka: "The battles we had, it's been just … who's willing to go for it more?"

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter: @mepucin

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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