New York – Serena Williams will have something to prove when she clashes with Victoria Azarenka in the Sunday women's US Open final after losing two of her last three matches to her world number two rival.
Azarenka beat the world number one in Doha in February and in the Cincinnati final last month while losing a Rome final on clay to the 31-year-old American.
Williams is bidding for a fifth US Open trophy and 18th grand slam singles honour while Azarenka is aiming for her second this season after winning the Australian Open.
“In both matches she played really well,” Williams said of her 24-year-old opponent from Belarus. “I let myself down at opportunities and I didn't take them. If I'm able to get another opportunity I have to take them, because she is always pumped and she does really well.”
Williams is promising a battle as she prepares to defend her New York trophy from 2012, when she also overcame Azarenka.
“When she plays me she plays her best, by far. I have seen her play other players, and when I play her I'm playing a totally different player. Obviously she brings her best game,” Williams said.
The American is hoping for a turnaround since losing a late lead in the Cincinnati final and going down to her rival.
“It will be a different energy, different opportunities - this is for a Grand Slam ... She's trying to win yet another one; I'm trying to win one myself.
“I have to win against a great player and I have to play great tennis. The thing that's guaranteed is I can go out there and just try to do my best, and whatever happens, just learn from whatever experience I get from it,” Williams said.
It's much the same for Azarenka, who called the Sunday final “an amazing opportunity, something that every tennis player dreams of to be in the final of the US Open and play against the best player in the world.
“It's something that I'm so excited about, and I can't wait to go out and play. I feel like I'm a better player (than a year ago), I'm a more complete player. That's what you aim for after one year of work. So in terms of that, I'm pretty pleased.”
The winner of the last two Australian Opens said she will be carrying no bad memories of her New York finals loss 12 months ago.
“I don't care what happened in the past. You always take a few things, positive or negative and try to apply it in your new match, new performance,” Azarenka said.
“But it's always a new story. I don't even think that it's going to be close to the same as it was last year. Serena and I each other pretty well. I know her strengths; she knows my strengths. That's what it's all about, about those turning points, who wants it more, who's willing to go for it more. It's a bunch of combinations.” – Sapa-dpa