Victoria Azarenka (BLR #1) d.  Serena Williams (USA #9)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 6-1
As far as pretenders to the throne go, they do not come much more intimidating than Serena Williams. And current WTA queen Victoria Azarenka can be forgiven for casting a few furtive glances in the direction of the American, who has looked a class apart in the Spanish capital this week. On Sunday, the two will face each other head on, with pride, a ?631,000 winner's cheque and, most importantly, the Madrid title on the line.
Despite sitting eight places below Azarenka in the rankings, Williams arguably enters this matchup as the slight favorite, due to her current form - she has won her last 12 clay court matches - and superior head-to-head record. However, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since the pair last locked horns at the 2011 US Open.
In the intervening period, Azarenka has transformed herself from perennial nearly woman to perennial winner; in 2012 alone, she has captured four titles - including the Australian Open - 34 match wins and the No.1 ranking. It is not just her results that have changed, though. Over the past 12 months, the Belarusian has added greater depth, accuracy and variety to her already formidable groundstrokes, as well as improving her physical conditioning and on court movement.
While Azarenka is the more consistent player, Williams is the more explosive. Her ability to dictate off both serve and return can take the match away from opponents amidst a flurry of winners, something Maria Sharapova found out to her cost during a surprisingly one-sided quarterfinal. Whether she can do the same when faced with Azarenka's defensive wizzardry, though, remains to be seen.
Road To The Final
First Round: Svetlana Kuznetsova, 76(5) 64
Second Round: d. Andrea Hlavackova, 63 76(2) (1:46)
Third Round: d. Ana Ivanovic, 64 64 (1:26)
Quarterfinals: d. Li Na, 36 63 63 (1:55)
Semifinals: d. Agnieszka Radwanska, 62 64 (1:19)
First Round: Elena Vesnina, 63 61 (1:10)
Second Round: d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 62 61 (1:01)
Third Round: d. Caroline Wozniacki, 16 63 62 (1:42)
Quarterfinals: d. Maria Sharapova, 61 63 (1:19)
Semifinals: d. Lucie Hradecka, 76(5) 60 (1:20)
For more on today's match, see our Match Notes in the Press Center.