September 3, 2013 by Parveer Mann
How often have we seen in these last two slams that the higher ranked and more renowned player get in an early deficit and not come back. It happened to Nadal and Sharapova at Wimbledon and it’s happened twice to Roger Federer with the last coming in his fourth round defeat Monday. So, it has been encouraging to see Victoria Azarenka come back and survive (twice) on her trek to a possible return finals berth in New York.
Azarenka dominates pre-tournament buzz
I don’t know if precursors really matter but they surely drive storylines. The conversation on the women’s side has been consumed by the fact that Victoria Azarenka beat Serena Williams in Cincinnati. That result reaffirmed the belief of many that Serena’s only real challenge would be a showdown with Azarenka. But, the hype machine was on the verge of falling apart as Vika has not made it easy on herself so far these two weeks.
The matches with Alize Cornet and Ana Ivanovic were eerily similar. She admittedly began slow and had difficulty managing errors. In particular, her serve in the Ivanovic match was troubling until late in the third set. The inconsistency did not cost her in a match against the equally shaky Ivanovic but it also was nothing to be proud of.
The reason some think that Azarenka poses the most challenge to Serena is because she doesn’t let down in the big stages. In Cincinnati, Vika grew stronger as the match went on and really looked the better late into that tiebreak. But if you remember, the opposite happened in last year’s final as she let a 5-3 lead in the final set disappear. Hence, there are some positive signs that she is a good closer but still many doubts and that is when she has her ‘A’ game.
Still has time to work through it
The critical thing for Vika is that she has survived and advanced. She still has a favourble draw until the finals (and Serena?) and that provides her ample time to work on those slow starts and errors. For the sake of the hype machine, I hope she keeps it together and we get that chance to write those Serena-Vika stories.