Saturday, May 12, 2012
Serena Williams will face World #1 Victoria Azarenka in the finals of the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday. Serena quickly dispatched World #2 Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 on Friday while MadProfessah and Sentient Meat watched from the stands of the Caja Magica. On Saturday she reached the final by eliminating Czech Lucie Hradecka 7-6(5) 6-0. Serena is unbeaten on clay in 2012 in 12 matches, having previously won the Charleston by obliterating a field that included Samantha Stosur and Carolina Wozniacki last month. Her performance on the (controversial) blue clay of Madrid this week means that her ranking will be at least #6 on Monday.
The World #1 beat World #3 Agnieska Radwanska for the sixth time this year, dominating again the Polish player who curiously has yet to lose in 2012 to anyone not named Victoria Azarenka 6-2 6-4.
Serena leads Azarenka 6-1 in their head-to-head meetings, although their last meeting was a very tightly contested affair in the 3rd round of the 2011 US Open. Serena also has the second most wins of any active player against World #1 players (12 wins to 11 losses), second to her sister Venus who has 13 wins (and 19 losses) against top rated players. No other player has more than 6 wins against the reigning #1 player in the world.
I saw both players playing on Friday, with Azarenka toughing out a 3-set match after an(other) epic collapse from Li Na while Serena put on a serving clinic, blasting 13 aces in under 90 minutes to extend her winning streak against Sharapova to 6 consecutive matches. Sharapova was completely flummoxed when she had to serve in the sun, losing her serve on that side of the court 4 consecutive times, and at one point (after starting off well to hold serve at 1-all) the Russian lost 8 games in a row.
It should be quite a good match between the WTA's hottest player (only 2 losses in 2012: to Marion Bartoli and Maria Sharapova) in 36 matches played so far. Serena has played far fewer games but also looks sharp. It will be interesting to see the two best players on the WTA tour (the rankings are irrelevant where Serena is concerned!) in a clay court final which I suspect will be a preview of at least one major final contested in 2012.
The final is at 13:30 local time (4:30am PDT / 7:30am EDT).
MY PREDICTION: Serena.