NEW YORK (AP) - Among the many lessons Serena Williams has learned in the 13 years since she played her first Grand Slam final is that routine is overrated.
A perfect attitude to bring into the U.S. Open final, where the only consistent thing over the past five years has been that very little goes according to schedule.
This year, the women’s final between Williams and Victoria Azarenka was pushed back a day because of a strong storm bearing down on New York. It marks the fourth time in the last five years the women’s final, normally scheduled for Saturday, will be played on Sunday instead.
All of which is fine for Williams, who has been in the mix for three of those finals, and said she’s become much better at going with the flow over the years.
“I have really gotten out of being so into routines because it can really drive someone bananas,” Williams said. “I’ve been on the verge of going bananas because I have to have this, this, this. It wasn’t helping me win. It wasn’t helping me lose. It has nothing to do with that. I have kind of chilled off on that.”
Whatever she’s doing is working. The 30-year-old, 14-time Grand Slam titlist is in the middle of a summer that will certainly stand out, even by her standards:
_Winner at Wimbledon and the London Olympics in both singles and doubles.
_Finalist at the U.S. Open, losing only 19 games and not a single set along the way.
_A win away from capturing her fourth U.S. Open crown and becoming the first 30-something woman to win it all at Flushing Meadows since Martina Navratilova in 1987.
Also enjoying a pretty cool year is Azarenka, who opened 2012 with the Australian Open title, vaulted to No. 1 in the rankings the next week and will stay there regardless of who wins Sunday. Williams said she comes into the match with nothing to lose because she’s playing the best player on tour this year.
“I always believe that I’m the best, obviously,” Williams said. “But I mean, on paper, I think she’s been more consistent.”
The rankings say that’s true, but they only tell so much, especially over the past two weeks in Queens. While Williams has steamrolled through this tournament, Azarenka has faced a couple of difficult challenges.
To get to the final, she needed back-to-back three-set wins over defending champion Sam Stosur and French Open titlist Maria Sharapova. Those two matches took a combined 5 hours, 5 minutes _ only 92 minutes less than Williams has been on the court over the entire tournament.
Azarenka is 1-9 lifetime against Williams, with her only victory coming more than three years ago in Miami. More recently, she lost 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the Wimbledon semifinals, then 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals at the Olympics.