Victoria Azarenka (left) couldn't unseat Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. (Suzy Allman/SI)
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka believes she's closing the gap on 17-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.
"Serena is playing the best tennis of her life and so am I," Azarenka told AFP. "It's been really noticeable the gap from last year we have in the matches has minimized. I've beaten her twice this year. No one else has done that. It's just exciting to be in the era of somebody and competing with somebody who is considered the best ever and being their toughest opponent."
Celebrating Serena's 32nd birthday
Azarenka and the top-ranked Williams have split four meetings this year, giving Serena a 13-3 advantage overall and 8-0 in Grand Slam matches. The 24-year-old Belarusian beat Williams in hard-court finals in Qatar and Cincinnati, while Serena won finals on clay in Rome and on a hard court at the U.S. Open, where the 32-year-old American prevailed in a tense three-set final over her rival for the second year in a row. Azarenka served for the 2012 U.S. Open title before Williams rallied, and last month Azarenka came back from two breaks down at 1-4 in the second set to force a third.
"Serena is the best ever to me," Azarenka said. "I cannot judge somebody who I never played before, but for me overall the game of tennis has elevated and the evolution of the game raised up so much that it's hard to compare. It's like comparing Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather. How can you compare two eras? They're both the greatest in the world, but who was the better boxer?"