Victoria Azarenka rated her win over Serena Williams as one of her greatest comebacks, while she thinks facing her huge serve will be excellent practice for her final against Naomi Osaka.
Azarenka, who considered retirement earlier this year, was blown away by Williams in the opening set of a dramatic semi-final on the Arthur Ashe Stadium but showed great resolve to claw her way back into the contest.
While an ankle injury sustained by Williams early in the third set played into the Belarusian’s hands, Azarenka was good value for the 1-6 6-3 6-3 win over the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
Astonishingly, it was the two-time Australian Open champion’s first win over Williams at Grand Slam level, having lost their previous 10 meetings.
And she rates it among her finest wins.
‘It was mentally one of the strongest comebacks I’ve done,’ Azarenka told Amazon Prime.
‘I had to get myself out of really big trouble. At this stage of a Grand Slam against Serena, I know she’s not going to give away anything.
‘In that way it’s one of the best matches I’ve played.’
She will need a similarly big performance on Saturday if she is to win a third Grand Slam title.
Osaka, also chasing a third major win, has been in sensational form – both she and Azarenka are on 11-match win streaks.
‘I expect a great fight,’ said Azarenka, who will contest her first Slam final since the US Open in 2013.
‘She’s a very, very powerful player. I’m not sure we’re going to have that many rallies.
‘I’m going to have to try and make as many rallies as possible. Again, I had some good practice today of returning a really good serve – that was good practice for the final.
‘I’m going to enjoy this moment. It’s an amazing opportunity that I’m very, very grateful for. I’m going to give my best and yeah, what else is there to do but experience it and enjoy it?’
Osaka, who beat Jennifer Brady in a dramatic three-setter, said of the match-up: ‘I’ve played her once in Roland Garros. I played her twice, but the Roland Garros one is the most recent one that I remember.
‘Yeah, she seems really confident now. She’s moving well. I don’t know. I don’t try to think about, you know, other matches right after the match that I just finished. But should be tough.’
Brady was impressed by Osaka’s game as she suffered just her second defeat in 12 matches.
‘I’d say she’s just aggressive, plays a big game. She has a really good serve. When her serve’s on, it’s really tough to break her,’ said Brady.
‘She puts pressure on you to hold your serve because you know that you’re getting very minimal looks at her serve when she’s serving.
‘I think, you know, it’s just the aggressiveness that she brings, yeah.’
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