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By Chris Oddo

(January 3, 2012) -- The folks at the Brisbane International were kind enough to post this footage of Serena Williams crushing forehands and backhands from inside the service line from a gentle ball feed by none other than Patrick Mouratoglou.

Watching Serena do her thing in this video, it suddenly became clear to me: that's how she hits those ridiculously angled crosscourt balls that yank her opponent into the first row of seats so regularly -- the ones that make you groan in ecstasy when you see them executed with precision by Miss Williams.

It's all about putting in the work!

Speaking of, at this evening's Brisbane international night session, Serena will be looking to work her way past World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and into her first final of 2013. Williams, who has won 15 matches in a row and 34 of her last 35, will look to move to 12-1 against Azarenka and notch her tenth win in a row against Vika.

It's been about as one-sided a rivalry as you can get, but with the 23-year-old Azarenka getting more and more accomplished every season, it's not so difficult to envision a scenario where Azarenka could finally level the playing field against the 31-year-old 15-time Grand Slam champion.

Williams, who will attempt to become the oldest No. 1 in WTA history at this year's Australian Open, is also gunning for her 17th career win over a reigning World No. 1 (Martina Navratilova holds the all-time record with 18 such wins). She is 16-11 against top-ranked players (9 of the losses came against Martina Hingis and Justine Henin) and 4-0 against Azarenka while the Belarusian has held the No. 1 ranking.

But don't forget: Azarenka had her chances against Serena in last year's U.S. Open final, serving for the match at 5-3 in the third set, and had she taken won that match the complexion of women's tennis would be radically different; thanks to Williams' heroics at the Open, it's neither here nor there. As it stands now, it's Serena's world -- No. 1 ranking or not -- and the rest of the field is just paying exorbitant rents until someone with enough game can step up and become the new landlord in town.

Could Azarenka be that player? She's more likely than anybody else in the top ten, that's for sure. But being likely and actually being the one are two entirely different things.

No matter what happens, tonights semifinal is the first truly must-see match of the young season. Get your popcorn ready.


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