Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerSerena Williams (USA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Serena Williams booked her place in the women’s singles final at the Olympic Tennis Event on Friday with a 61 62 demolition of top seeded Victoria Azarenka. It was a stunning performance that lasted 63 minutes on Centre Court.
Williams, seeded No. 4, has been storming through the draw this week, knocking out some highly regarded opponents along the way, but to beat the world No. 1 in this manner is nothing short of astonishing.
Quite simply, the American was in a different class. Azarenka couldn’t get anywhere near the Williams serve, and even on her own deal she found the returns coming back with interest.
On the occasion that a rally did get going, Williams waited her moment and then struck, or just held on for the inevitable error from her opponent as Azarenka strived to do that little bit extra with the ball.
To her credit, the Belarusian dug deep at the end of the second set and made Williams get over line, but get over the line she duly did, aptly clinching victory with a second serve ace on her fifth match point.
Serena’s end-of-match serving stats speak for themselves. The American hit 16 aces, no doubles faults, and didn’t offer Azarenka a single break point opportunity. On her first serve, she won 89% of the points.
In her Olympic singles campaign so far, Williams has dropped serve just once, against Urzsula Radwanska in the second round, and has only faced five break points, which is a measly average of one per match.
Serena’s impressive serve has been the base for her resurgence on the grass this summer. Just a few weeks ago on the same courts, she hit more aces than any other player - men included - as she won her fifth Wimbledon title.
"I was really surprised," said Williams, describing her reaction to the one-sided nature of the match. "I kind of was blind today. I didn't even know where I was going, but you're playing the best player in the world, you got to play well. You can't go out there and not play great. She's No. 1 for a reason. I felt like I had nothing to lose, just going for it."
Next up for Williams in Saturday’s final is world No. 3 Maria Sharapova. The pair have met 10 times and Serena leads the series 8-2, although Sharapova will draw strength from her victory in the Wimbledon final, also on Centre Court, in 2004.
Sharapova, who completed her career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in June, booked her place in the Olympic final with a 62 63 win over Russian teammate Maria Kirilenko earlier on Friday.
Williams and Sharapova are both bidding for their first Olympic singles gold medal. The American has triumphed in the doubles twice before, while the Russian is making her Olympic debut at London 2012.
"Maria does everything really well," said Williams. "She's improved so much from week-to-week. I mean, the worst thing for her to do is lose because the next time she comes out, she wins and improves, she never looks back.
"For me, that's going to be really important, knowing I'm playing a great player, French Open champion. I have to really do my best. I don't have anything to lose tomorrow. She's No. 3 in the world. I just do the best I can. Whether I win or not, it will be just a great opportunity for me to get this far."
Kirilenko and Azarenka will now meet in the battle for bronze, although both Kirilenko and Williams will turn their attention to doubles first. The pair are scheduled to face each other in the semifinals, Kirilenko partnering Nadia Petrova and Serena teaming up with her sister Venus.
Azarenka is also playing again as she lines up with Max Mirnyi in the mixed doubles quarterfinals against Sania Mirza and Leander Paes of India.
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