SAN DIEGO, September 8, 2013 – Serena Williams won her first U.S. Open women’s singles tennis title at age 17 in 1999.
Thank goodness it never gets old. After a rough start feeling frustrated by the windy conditions at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams prevailed over a tough Victoria Azarenka.
Williams faced more of a challenge in the final, but it was far more difficult than many expected. Azarenka played with determination, even when it seemed she would make an early exit.
At the beginning of the match, wind tormented Williams. She could be seen on the CBS broadcast mouthing the words “I can’t play in this wind.” Even the skirt Williams was wearing got in her way as it swirled around in the gusts.
The women traded service breaks to start the match. Tied at 4-4 in the first set, Azarenka surged ahead with a superb service game. She won with a wicked drop shot that Williams couldn’t reach.
Watch out when you make Serena mad. Wiliams seemed to decide to get down to business. She was visibly fired up. She won the next three games including a break in Azarenka’s serve, taking the first set 7-5. Williams attacked with sheer power rather than finesse, her best approach with the windy conditions still bothering her.
The winner of the first set has gone on to win the last 18 championships. It would be no different this year, but it was a long hard fight.
Williams broke Azarenka’s serve in the first game of the second set. Azarenka is no quitter, but the shift in momentum was obvious. Getting whipped with service aces between 114 and 119 miles per hour will shut anyone down. The second break for Williams came when Azarenka double faulted on her serve.
It seemed over at this point. But Azarenka fought her way back, with help from a few unforced errors by Williams and her own excellent play, especially when coming to the net. From a 4-1 deficit, Azarenka brought the set back to 6-6, then won a close tiebreak to take the second set. Once again the wind got into Williams’ head, and her frustration was distracting her.
It came down to the third set, and again came down to unforced errors. Azarenka let Williams get a service break in the fourth game due to unforced errors. Williams regained her edge, and delivered her hardest service ace of the match in the fifth game of the third set, 126 miles per hour. Azarenka did it again in the sixth game, double faultng to put Williams up 5-1 and serving for the match.
Williams won the game, set, match and America’s championship, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 in two hours and 46 minutes. It was the longest women’s championship match since the tournament has been keeping track, 1980.
After congratulating Azarenka, Williams shouted in triumph to the crowd. It is Williams’ fifth U.S. Open singles title, third Grand Slam title this year, and her 17th Grand Slam title overall in singles. She is the oldest U.S. Open women’s champion just shy of her 32nd birthday. She won $2.6 million in prize money, plus another $1 million for placing first in the Emirates Bonus Challenge.
After warm applause from the crowd, Azarenka told Mary Carillo of CBS, “It is a tough loss. But to be in the final against a tough player who deserves the win is incredible. We fought hard.”
Williams told Carillo after the match “I definately felt the love, so thank you all so much. It’s an honor to play in New York.” Turning to Azarenka, Wiliams said “Vica is such a great opponent, such a great fighter … It was never over until match point.”
The men’s final takes place on Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern time between the two top seeds, Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read Ringside Seat in Communities at Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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