NEW YORK — Top-seeded Serena Williams won her 17th Grand Slam title and her fifth U.S. Open on Sunday with a 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 victory over second-seeded Victoria Azarenka on Arthur Ashe Stadium court. When Azarenka’s final service return went long, Williams pumped her fists and yelled, “Come on.” Williams had also won the French Open this year and seemed well on her way to her second straight U.S. Open title when she led 7-5, 4-1 Sunday.
But the 31-year-old Williams was broken twice when serving for the match and then lost the tiebreaker to the 24-year-old Azarenka, who won the Australian Open this year. A swirling wind was a factor in the match and seemed to particularly bother Williams, who at times had to fight to keep her dress from flying up and her ball toss in line.
At one point in the first set, Williams mouthed to her box, “I can’t play in this wind.” She was frustrated. She would moan after missed shots. When Azarenka held for a 3-2 lead in the first set, Williams yelled, “Oh, God,” when her forehand flew wide.
The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd was fully on the side of Williams, which hasn’t always been the case. Williams had ugly incidents with a lineswoman in 2009 and with the chair umpire in 2010, and when she returned here last year after missing the 2011 tournament with injuries, she was greeted politely but not warmly.
Sunday, every winner she hit was greeted with loud applause while Azarenka heard only an occasional clap. As she served at 4-5 to stay in the first set, Williams started with a double fault and she served another to put the game at deuce. On the deuce point that seemed to be an ace, Williams was called for a foot fault, but she kept her composure and hit a forehand winner up the line. After a couple more deuces,Williams evened the match at 5-5 with a 109-mph ace.
From there, Williams won eight consecutive points to take the set, 7-5. A Williams victory appeared inevitable when she charged to a 4-1, two-break lead in the second set. Williams needed only to hold serve twice and she would be champion. But that wasn’t as easy as it appeared. Azarenka broke back to 4-2 and held to 4-3. Williams, with the help of a 119-mph ace, held at love for 5-3 and Azarenka held for 5-4.
On her first chance to serve out the match, Williams quickly fell behind and faced two break points at 15-40. The first was saved by a Williams forehand winner, but Azarenka won it on the second when Williams hit a backhand long, and the set was tied, 5-5.
Azarenka gave the break back immediately with a backhand into the net, giving Williams another chance to serve for the championship. But Williams dumped a backhand into the net at 30-30 and double-faulted on break point, allowing Azarenka to break for 6-6 and forcing the tiebreaker.
Azarenka won the tiebreak on her third set point, when another Williams backhand found the net.The two would play one final set for the championship.
Again Williams got the first break, in the fourth game, on an Azarenka double fault to give the American a 3-1 lead. And Williams again took a 4-1 lead, holding with back-to-back aces, the first clocked at 126 mph, the second on a second serve.
This time, instead of faltering in the sixth game, Williams broke again when Azarenka put a forehand into the net. Now up 5-1, Williams served for the match yet again. She held firm, and the championship was hers.
article by Diane Pucin via latimes.com