Serena Williams, the greatest player of her generation (and right up there with all generations) won her fourth U.S. Open title today. Williams hadn't won the title in New York in four years, and she came within two points of going out against world number 1 Victoria Azarenka today. But Azarenka, despite making a huge comeback in the final, gave up the only chance she had to win the final, giving Williams exactly the edge she needed to claim her 15th major singles title.
The first set set was all about Williams, who took it 6-2 in 34 minutes. It looked like it was going to be a beat-down, and--at that point--I found what was going on in the LPGA to be much more interesting--but more about that later.
Azarenka came out a different player in the second set--and so did Williams. Williams had trouble with her footwork, and appeared sluggish and even frozen at moments when she needed to move fast and take charge. The world number one quickly went up a break for 3-1, and she did so rather dramatically when she hit a one-handed backhand return and followed it with a sliding forehand down-the-line shot. Serving at 1-4, Williams saved two break points, then saved a third with an ace. Azarenka broke on her fourth break point, however, then held for 5-1. Williams then held at love, and Azarenka--providing a bit of a preview for what was to come--then double-faulted twice when she served for the set.
Azarenka did hold, however, and took the second set 6-2. (In the meantime, Paula Creamer and Jayai Shin went into a sudden-death playoff at the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia, when Creamer blew a shot that would have made her the champion. The two events would continue to parallel one another throughout the evening.)
In the final set, Azarenka had a very difficult hold for 1-all. She then held two break points against Williams. Williams saved the first one with an ace, but was broken on the second one. But she immediatel broke back, to put the players on serve again. At 3-all, Azarenka broke Williams at love. She then saved a break point on her own serve, and won the game with a wicked forehand down the line. Williams then held for 4-5, and the tension was high.
(Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, Creamer and Shin continued to be totally even through a number of holes, as the sun started to set, and it became more and more difficult to see the ball and the hole.)
Azarenka served for the match at 5-4, and it was as though she looked across the net and realized how the script was supposed to end: She made three consecutive errors. Serving at 0-40, the world number 1 hit a huge serve, high and out wide at 107 mph., and saved a game point. But she was broken on her next serve, and it seemed obvious that the Aaarenka door had closed.
Williams would go on to hold her serve. Serving at 5-6, Azarenka got to 30-all, then hit a two-handed backhand volley to get a game point, but the game went to deuce instead. Azarenka got a second game point, but hit long, which gave Williams match point. The three-time champion converted that point and became the 2012 U.S. Open champion.
It was a good match by almost any standard, and Azarenka's comeback was a highlight of the tournament. But when she had the chance to win it all, Azarenka did not handle the moment, and that was all Williams needed to do what she does best--take over play and shut down other options.
(In Williamsburg, Creamer had another big chance to win the whole thing but blew a birdie shot, and the players and their teams had an extended discussion about whether to carry on in the near-dark or resume play tomrorow morning. They decided to carry on, but then their teams talked them out ot it, and the opponents were taken away in their respective carts, after playing eight rounds of sudden death.)
Serena Williams, who has gone though more than many professional athletes can even think about, has had an outstanding 2012 season. She won Wimbledon, she won a gold medal in singles (and doubles) at the Olympic Games, and now she has won the U.S. Open.
The Serena Curse at the U.S. Open was lifted today. There was an argument with the umpire, but it was Azarenka who had it. A foot fault was called against Williams, but all involved handled it with either equanimity or humor.
I'm exhausted from all the WTA/LPGA drama all going on at the same time. I'll get up tomorrow to see how the golf drama plays out. The U.S. Open men's final has once again been postponted until Monday, but the women's part of the Open is done, and Serena Williams looks as dominant as she ever has--15 and counting.