The Pick: VENUS WILLIAMS VS. VICTORIA AZARENKA, QATAR OPEN, FEB 27

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Williams is 4-0 versus Azarenka, which is pretty surprising. Four years ago, Williams discovered that she was ill and it was very difficult for her to play at all. During the last year overall, she looks a lot better, which is why the 34-year-old is about to crack the top 10 very soon.

The former seven-time Grand Slam may never be able to win a major again, but playing one week vs. two weeks, she does have a chance. Yes, she isn’t dominating her opponents and plays for hours upon hours, but she is very smart and guile.

But why has she been able to take down the two-time Slam champ Azarenka in all four matches? Well, when she faced off the first time was in 2008, when Venus had just won her last Wimbledon and was cracking the ball. A couple months later, she played the baby at the Olympics in Beijing in the fourth round and she won easily. In 2010, Azarenka was a bit more mature and they played at 2010 Dubai in the final, and Williams won 6-3 7-5, which was pretty close.

By 2013, Azarenka was flying high, winning the Australian Open and reaching No. 1. However, they played each other in Tokyo in October and Venus whipped her 6-2 6-4. Vika looked very tired and slow.

Last summer at the 2014 Stanford, they played in the second round. As Azarenka admitted, she was pretty depressed last year and was out of shape. Venus was more happy and much more consistent and won 6-4 7-6.

So what about this time in Qatar? Azarenka was terrific in beating Caro Wozniacki, while Venus overcame Aga Radwanska in a fine win.

The 25-year-old Azarenka really wants to beat the best again. She is not perfect by any means, but her forehand has been very solid and her rushing to the net is getting better and better.

The problem there is that her serves have been so-so at best. If she is going to push her second serves down the middle and hope that Venus isn’t going to attack, she is going to go down pretty quickly.

Venus knows how to punish the balls down on the lines, rushing to the net when she knows that the Belarussian has a hard time passing with her forehands (Vika’s backhand is better), and she can confuse her by mixing up her first serves. Plus, Venus can still nail her first serves and pocket her aces.

However, Azarenka wants this win more than Venus does. As long as she can stroke the balls deep and go at Venus’ problematic forehand, she will be OK. However, Vika cannot be too nervous because if she is, Venus will win again. Even if she is shaky, Williams can take a deep breath and move ahead.

It’s a toss up, but Azarenka will out-stroke Williams at the end, winning in three sets.

 

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