Victoria Azarenka is the number one seed at this year’s US Open. The point merits repeating, because few pundits place her as the absolute favourite for the title. That would be the mighty Serna Williams, who many think is unstoppable in her quest for a 15th Grand Slam title.However, we mustn’t forget that Azarenka has had a stellar 2012 so far. She began the year with a 26 match-winning streak, picking up her first major title at the Australian Open and putting serious distance between herself and the rest of the WTA field. When the tour moved from hard courts to clay and grass, she lost the aura of invincibility, but still performed well, reaching the finals in Stuttgart and Madrid and the semi-finals of Wimbledon. In fact, the Belarusian has lost only six times this year, and three of those losses have come at the hands of Serena. However, Azarenka is one of the game’s fiercest competitors. She enters the court as a boxer does the ring, strutting yet focused. She believes that she should win every match she plays, and would not take any solace from the fact that few players have ever matched Serena at her best.
Humbled by a series of high-profile defeats, she is desperate for revenge. Azarenka’s fourth round match against Anna Tatishvili should be the latest routine win for her. Although the 73rd-ranked Georgian, only 22, is beginning to make an impact on the tour, she has struggled to build momentum and will likely have no answer to Azarenka’s pounding baseline onslaught. The world number one should power into the last 8 with few problems.And it is from the quarter-finals onwards that her competition will stiffen. If match results live up to the seedings, she would face defending champion Sam Stosur, followed by Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals. Azarenka “owns” Stosur, thrashing her six times without even losing a set, and would be confident of beating her again. Kvitova, on the other hand, is a much tougher opponent, especially if the Czech is playing at her best. Should Azarenka find a way past her, however, she would most likely find Serena staring her down in the final. And that would be a mouthwatering prospect.
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