By Craig Gabriel

NEW YORK: Serena Williams has made the US Open final for the third year in a row and for the seventh time overall as she tries to win it for the fifth time and equal her tally of titles from the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Serena will play Victoria Azarenka for the 16th time, the head-to-head series is 12-3 in Serena’s favour, and this is a repeat of last year’s US Open final which Serena won7-5 in the third.

“I definitely feel like when she plays me she plays her best, by far,” said Serena of Azarenka. “I have seen her play other players, and when I play her I’m playing a totally different player.  Obviously she brings her best game, yeah.

“I know her game as well as she knows mine. She knows what I do great, what I do bad, and what I can do better. I know the same thing.  At this point, it’s just all about just playing some tennis now.”

Serena defeated Li Na 6-0, 6-3 in one hour 27 minutes to reach the final. She won the first seven games of the match before Li Na, in her first US Open semifinal and who admitted to being nervous, was on the scoreboard and then things tightened up a bit.

Li broke Serena’s serve for the first time to lead 2-1 and had points to go up 3-1 but the world No.1 shook out the cobwebs and broke back.

Serena consolidated her position and started to pile on the games again. She was pressing Li as the Chinese player staved off six match points in the eighth game. It was a brave effort as Serena kept coming back at her with some of the most stunning and punishing passing shots. She hit some crosscourt forehands that would have made a bazooka look like molasses.

“I think I started out really well and I was really focused,” said Serena. “I think Li Na may have been a little off, but I think it was because I started out so well and then she may have not played her best. But I think she played well.  It was, I thought especially towards the end, a very quality match.”

There was a 20 minute window that was captivating to watch as both women gave it everything.

Li eventually held in that eighth game but now it was Serena’s chance to finish things with her own service game. She did that, the match ending when Li netted a forehand on match point seven.

Reaching the final is special and being able to defend a title for once is “really awesome”.

“I have done so well here the past few times I have played, just getting to the semis or getting to the finals. You know, it’s been really, really exciting, so I’m really happy that I have been able to just consistently do well here.”