Reigning Grand Slam champions Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are locked in a battle for the US Open title and the season’s global bragging rights in women’s tennis.
All three will try to claim the $1.9 million top prize and their second major title of the year in Saturday night’s championship match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Williams has won three crowns and Sharapova took the 2006 title.
“I really want it bad. I’m going to do absolutely everything I have to and give it all. First time being in US Open semi-finals is incredible feeling for me,” said Azarenka, who has ensured she will be atop the rankings next week no matter who wins and enjoyed a season that included her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
On Friday, World No 1 Azarenka, the top seed from Belarus, will face Russian third seed Sharapova in one of the semi-finals while US fourth seed Williams meets Italian 10th seed Sara Errani, the 2012 French Open runner-up in the other.
“Many people expected her to win a Grand Slam earlier than she did,” Sharapova said of Azarenka.
“She always had a solid game. She was always a little mentally fragile, felt like she would bang her racquet and yell. But I think with age and maturing you learn so much by playing matches. You learn what helps you get motivated.”
No top seed has won a Grand Slam since Williams at Wimbledon in 2010 and no US Open women’s top seed has won since Justine Henin in 2007. “I feel like I will never be satisfied,” Azarenka said.
“Even at the peak of my career now I want to do better. The ambitions are high. (World No 1) means a lot but it’s nothing like lifting a trophy. It’s something you work really hard for your whole life, but this will not compare.”
Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning her fourth major title at the French Open, will rise to second in the rankings next week.
“Maria is a player who will give it all no matter what the score is. She’s always fighting and tough mentally,” said Azarenka. Williams, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, won the Wimbledon title and London Olympic gold medal and has hit an Open-best 41 aces with a serve that has overwhelmed rivals. A US Open title would make her the clear top woman of 2012.
Serena’s big serves
Sharapova said: “It’s one thing to serve a big serve but it’s another thing to do it consistently match in match out with the power and the strength. She finds corners extremely well and on a consistent level.”
Williams, who turns 31 later this month, would be the second-oldest US Open women’s champion in the Open era. She was the oldest women’s Grand Slam winner since 1990 when she won at Wimbledon in July.
Azarenka vs Sharapova
Serena vs Errani