By Mike McIntyre
Serena Williams came through in fine style tonight in Toronto as she defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the Rogers Cup final.
Williams played a remarkably clean game for someone who is only playing in her fourth tournament back after missing a year from the WTA Tour.There are very few players, man or woman, who could accomplish such a quick return to the top of the game.
Azarenka was coming in playing some terrific tennis as she had only dropped six games through three matches in the tournament. While she started strong in the opening few games against Williams, she could not sustain the same level of play tonight that we have seen all week long.
Williams broke to go up 4-2, yet Azarenka was able to promptly break her right back. Instead of then building on that momentum, the fourth ranked player from Belarus dropped her serve again to allow Serena to serve for the first set at 5-3. The American won all four points on her serve in that important game and took the opening frame 6-3 with an ace.
In the second set Azarenka was never able to mount a real challenge and could not break Serena's serve. She would double fault at 3-3, 15-40 to give Serena the break she would need to move on towards victory.
While Azarenka has many great skills on the tennis court, her soft second serve was far too easy for Williams to pounce on tonight.
The final score was 6-3, 6-3, which was a cleaner victory than many expected in this match-up. Williams was happy with the progress she has been making here this week yet feels she still has another gear to reach. Just what the rest of the tour wanted to hear, right?
"I feel like...I still can do a little better," Serena said. "But overall, I'm almost maybe where I was almost (before the time off), but I want to exceed that level.
Looking forward to the final against Stosur, Williams had the following assessment:
"Well, the last time we played, she got the best of me. It was an intense match, and she played really well. So being ranked 10th in the world...I think that, you know, she definitely has an opportunity to take it all. She's been playing well. I think this court really suits her game. We'll see. I have nothing to lose, and I'm happy to have gotten this far. Hopefully if I take another title, that would be great. If not, you know, hey, there's next week."
The way she is playing right now, it is hard to imagine Serena losing tomorrow. With her stellar play of late, coupled with Stosur's lackluster 2-8 record in WTA finals, expect Williams to win her second tournament in-a-row and head towards the U.S. Open as the definitive favorite.