Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka treated the fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium to a transcendent 2nd set on Saturday.
For a brief stunning moment on Arthur Ashe Stadium, tennis fans were treated to all that women's tennis aspires to be, when Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka locked horns in a second set that had jaws dropping and twitter feeds lighting up all over the place.
There will be many who will lament the fact that William's 6-1, 7-6(5) victory took place in the 3rd round rather than the final, but whenever it took place, it was damn pleasing to watch.
We all expected Serena to hold court, but when Azarenka rose up to challenge the 13-time Grand Slam champion and put the match into doubt, at least for a while, we were reminded of the incredible potential of the 22-year-old who is currently ranked No. 5 in the world.
The draw was unfortunate for Azarenka, and that might have been on her mind when she found herself on the short end of a 28-minute first set that featured 13 winners and 7 aces from Williams and 2 winners and 0 aces for Azarenka.
But to her credit Azarenka didn't hang her head. She picked up her play considerably in a scintillating 82-minute second set, fighting off 4 match points, scorching 16 winners and making Serena pull out all the stops to ensure she got the victory.
Of course, Serena did.
But the feisty Azarenka deserves credit for playing a major role in what was the most entertaining set of the tournament thus far. She could have easily mailed in the second set and blamed her fate on the cruel gods of tennis who pitted her against Williams so early in the draw, but instead she gathered herself and elevated her game to a level so high that it was unclear as to just who was the better player on the court for much of the second set.
In the end it was Serena, but in the process Azarenka proved that she just may be the 2nd best player in the world right now; if she isn't, she certainly has the potential to be. "I mean, I"m not going to sit here and cry about I had a tough draw," said Azarenka afterwards.
As far as Serena goes, there should be plenty of opportunities to sing her praise over the next week, so please forgive me for not doing so here. But I will say this: there were no doubts about Serena's form coming into this tournament, and now that she's taken out the No. 4 seed and displayed a level of fitness and movement that we haven't seen from her in years in doing so, it's clear that it is going to take a transcendent effort to compete with her at the 2011 US Open — let alone beat her.
Is anybody left in the women's draw capable of such an effort?