Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 11/20/14

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23: Victoria Azarenka of Belaru plays a forehand in her third round match against Tathiana Garbin of Italy during day six of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Coming into this tournament, Victoria Azarenka and Sam Stosur looked like the only two players who could possible come close to Serena with the level she’s playing at. Stosur showed how to beat Serena last year and Azarenka has the power game to almost compete from the baseline. Really, though, Serena is just a whole level above the field write now. I’m tempted to make Azarenka’s key to victory be “pray Serena doesn’t play well” and Serena’s to be “just be herself”. Because that’s really what this match will be. But we can break things down a little farther.

Azarenka’s Keys to Victory:

1. Force Serena off her game- Aside from praying that Serena doesn’t play well, there are some things that Azarenka can do on the court to try and keep this match close. Serena doesn’t really have a weak shot from the baseline, but her forehand is more powerful than her backhand. If Azarenka can keep her shots deep and heavy and towards Serena’s backhand wing, maybe she can keep Serena from a position in which she can take control of the points. Also, if Azarenka can just come out firing and hit some bombs early, maybe she can throw Serena off her rhythm a little.

2. Attack the second serve- If Serena has anything close to a weakness, it’s her second serve. Stosur exploited that fully when she beat Serena in the US Open final last year. By the end of the match, it felt like every Serena second serve was met with a forehand return winner. Azarenka needs to do the same. She needs to make Serena scared to hit her absolute bombs on her first serve. If Serena knows that every second serve will be met with a return winner, she will have to dial back the first serve to guarantee getting it in.

3. Attack the short balls- This is basically to use Serena’s own game against her before Serena gets a chance to do it. Anything that Azarenka leaves even mildly short will be crushed and Serena will have an advantage in the point that she will never relinquish. Azarenka cannot allow that to happen. She needs to keep everything deep. But, more importantly, she has to take anything that Serena leaves even a little short and attempt to crush it for a winner (or close to it). She will not have a way to control points otherwise and once Serena gains control of the points, she will not give it up.

Serena’s Keys to Victory:

1. Stay confident. We have seen the difference between a Serena that is confident and one that is unsure of herself. The timid Serena lost in the first round of the French Open to Virginie Razzano. The confident Serena has lost only one match since, a match against Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati that Serena might not have wanted to win anyway. She had her hard court warmup and then needed to rest before the US Open. As long as she trusts herself and can put all of her considerable power into her shots, no one is beating her.

2. Keep on serving big- Serena’s serve this tournament has been, in a word, awesome. It has been precise, massive, and unreturnable. If Serena can keep serving absolute bombs that no one on tour right now can return, she is going to be nearly impossible to break. Azarenka has a good return, but Serena’s serve has just been absolutely untouchable this tournament. She should be able to hold serve comfortably throughout the match if she can serve the same way she has the past two weeks.

3. Make strong returns- Azarenka has a big serve and ground game and might be able to hold a lot if Serena can’t attack off the serve. If Serena can only put the serves back in play then Azarenka might be able to follow up with winners and hold her serve. But that shouldn’t be a problem. Serena needs to be able to keep her returns deep and angled and take immediate control of the point. If she can do that, there is nothing that will stop this scoreline from being as lopsided as any of Serena’s other matched.

Prediction: Azarenka is a great player and a great competitor, but she just doesn’t have anything that can come close to Serena’s level right now. Serena in 2 easy sets.

To see my men’s semifinals preview, please click here.


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao close to deal for fight

TJ Lang: Suh wanted to fight me after stepping on Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Hernandez jurors allowed to watch Super Bowl

Tiger misses cut: ‘I’m only doing this so I won’t get fined’

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate during presser

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rex Ryan: Seahawks need to ‘take the air out of the football’

J.J. Watt buys cabin in the middle of nowhere to train

Six teams have done background work on Peterson

NBA set to earn $700M through streaming deal in China

Wade Phillips is the best coordinator hire this offseason

Bill Belichick gives understated scouting report of Tom Brady

WATCH: Jimmy Butler throws down half-court alley-oop

President Obama zings Patriots over Deflate-gate

Each major conference's Player Of The Year candidates

Super Bowl XLIX preview and predictions: Patriots-Seahawks

49 Stops to Super Bowl XLIX

Most unexpected MLB free agent signings of past 10 years

Five most villainous Super Bowls of all time

Super Bowl ad focuses on acceptance of gay athletes

Foster says UT boosters paid him $40-50K while in college

Ranking the repeat Super Bowl champions

Eric Decker to Sherman: Time your conception a little better

Could Katy Perry and Russell Wilson be dating?

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Obama zings Pats over Deflate-gate

Each major conference's POY candidates

Super Bowl XLIX preview and predictions: Patriots vs. Seahawks

The 13 things we want to see in Super Bowl XLIX

49 Stops to Super Bowl XLIX

Tiger Woods, misses cut: ‘I’m only doing this so I won’t get fined’

Ranking the repeat SB champions

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate

Katy Perry, Russell Wilson dating?

Rex Ryan has advice for Seahawks

Super Bowl: Things you can't control

LeBron and the Cavs are ready to make a run

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.