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“When I go to play against her, I don’t think that I’m playing against Serena,” Azarenka said. “I just try to go the same way and try to focus more on myself. But you definitely know that it’s going to be big adversity there on the court against you. You have to be prepared to make sure you want to dig deep and accept the challenge.”

Last year, rain reshuffled the schedule at Flushing Meadows and Williams was on the court until around 11:30 p.m. Saturday for her semifinal win over Caroline Wozniacki, then forced to make a quick turnaround for the final Sunday afternoon.

She went into that final after another dominating roll through Flushing Meadows, losing only 29 games over six matches. Many figured her showdown against Stosur, who went a grueling three sets in her semifinal victory, would be a mere formality.

Turned out it was. For Stosur. Williams got into an argument with the chair umpire _ “You’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside,” she said _ and ended up losing 6-2, 6-3.

But given all she had been through that year _ the cuts on her feet from glass at a restaurant, two foot operations, clots in her lungs _ she said it was hard to be too upset with a trip to the U.S. Open final.

“I mean, I was definitely disappointed, but not as down as I would have normally been under any other situation,” she said. “This year, I’m physically better. I’m more confident, playing more matches and winning. I have Wimbledon under my belt.”

If she wins Sunday, she’ll remain the only woman to win more than one Grand Slam tournament in a single year since 2007 (Justine Henin).

If Azarenka wins, she’ll become the first woman to accomplish that since Williams last did it in 2010.

When her win over Sharapova was over, Azarenka said she wished she could stay on the court and keep playing. Instead, she’ll walk on with about 48 hours of rest. That’s two days to think about how to take down a champion.

“If you look at our record, it says it all,” Azarenka said. “I mean, I haven’t won in any last meetings, so I definitely need to find something to surprise her … because she’s in a great form, feeling really confident right now.

“You know, she has everything on her side.”