Serena Williams captures her 4th US Open Title, Djokovic advances to Finals
While most of the country’s eyes were glued to opening day of football, it was just as monumental a day for tennis. Due to severe weather conditions Saturday evening, the last men’s semi-final and women’s final were played Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Before the women’s match, Andre Agassi was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions. In Flushing, football became an afterthought.
No, this night belonged to two women who shared two hours and eighteen minutes of riveting tennis. And while both played worthy of their name being engraved into the US Open trophy, ultimate victory belonged to Serena Williams.
Winning her fourth US Open and 15th Grand Slam tournament, Serena Williams laid out like a snow angel on the Arthur Ashe court after her opponent Victoria Azarenka hit the last shot of the women’s tournament long over the baseline. Williams kissed her mother, and then leaped in exaltation like a little girl. Her win capped what Mary Carillo called a “snappy summer,” adding another trophy to her 2012 case, which included a Wimbledon championship and gold at the London Olympics.
“I came in this summer knowing it could be a long summer, but I knew that I could do well if I just put my mind to it,” she said. “I never expected to win all these titles.”
But what a match. Deemed by the US Open Chairman as the best women’s match ever played in Flushing, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka saved their finest play for last. In front of a full house, including celebrities like Will Ferrell, Kevin Spacey, Tyra Banks, and Amare Stoudemire, how thrilling it was to hear everyone holding their collective breath, ripping their loudest roars.
Williams took the first set 6-2 and it seemed like the match could have finished in under an hour. How easy it was for Serena, who overpowered her serve and returned line-clipping winners from Azarenka. The stage wasn’t too large for the Belarusian, (she’s ranked #1 and won her first Grand Slam in Melbourne earlier this year), Serena was just too powerful. The second set was completely the opposite.
No one doubts Serena is by far the strongest, powerful, maybe most athletic woman player in the game, but when she falls behind, it’s her mental game that’s to blame. Her heavy slams and whacks, so visceral, so punishing, have their dark side as well. Her aggressiveness counted 44 total winners to Azarenka’s 13, but it also tallied 45 unforced errors. It was a second set for Serena where the ball found the net too often, and Azarenka found a rhythm returning Serena’s average serve speeds of 110 mph. Victoria “returned” the favor and won the second 6-2, Serena’s first broken set of the tournament.
“I felt like I was returning much better. I was preparing my opportunities to dictate, not let her dictate” said Azarenka. “You have to be confident. You have to trust yourself. I did. I really did.”
The third set found middle ground. Serena’s serve however still found inconsistency, and amongst a favorable home crowd, struggled to maintain her first set formula that played so potent early on. Azarenka broke at 3-3, and then kept serve to jump ahead 5-3. It was Serena’s turn to stay alive.
“I just thought, I was on serve; at 30-All I figured I could serve that out and just make her serve for it,” said Williams. “It’s the least I could have done.”
That she did, but it was Azarenka who still controlled her destiny up 5-4 and ready to serve. The crowd kicked in and then as Andre Agassi mentioned in his induction speech, a “deafening silence” broke out.
When asked if she had nerves or confidence before serving for the potential championship, Azarenka replied “Well, it was both.”
“It was definitely a lot of self-belief in myself, but I felt like there was just too many one-, two-shot rallies that didn’t allow me to grind a little bit…and not make me really feel in control at that particular moment.”
Give Serena Williams a second chance and it will come back to bite you. Serena, with a harnessing wave of enthusiasm after her break, rode the momentum to capture a 7-5 set and her 4th US Open championship. Witnessing that match was something I’d never experienced before.
Arthur Ashe Stadium was its own world, and only two people mattered in it. How tense, how chilling, how vivifying the intermittent bursts of roars echoed. Like getting into your car and getting blasted by music that was left on high the night before, the contrast between reverent silence and post point bedlam was arrestingly awakening and seductive. With each Serena passing shot, each Azarenka volley, more gasps, more reasons to scream. Nothing mattered but the moment; nothing counted except the next point.
“It’s something you will never be able to describe in words, because that feeling you get, that energy, you know, that something special, all eyes on you waiting for you to serve or return or see what you’re gonna do, it’s absolutely incredible,” said Azarenka.
Even more incredible may be Azarenka’s positivity and perspective, even after an emotional loss like Sunday’s.
“I have to be positive, you know, because I feel like these kind of matches—every time I play Serena, it really pushes me to be better, to improve, to move forward,” she said. “I have to be thankful to her for that.”
That is one grounded, wise 23-year-old. Serena, however, is 30, but she’s playing seven years younger too. Even her mindset is 23.
“I feel like even though I’m 30, I feel so young and I’ve never felt as fit and more excited and more hungry,” said Williams. “Even with this win like I’m sitting here so excited still ready to play the next Grand Slam and see what I can do. Just to do more”
If more means more of Sunday night, I can’t wait.
Before the night’s main event, Novak Djokovic defeated Spaniard David Ferrer (2-6,6-1,6-4,6-2). A day after all the rain and blustery wind had cleared out, Djokovic felt more at home, taking care of Ferrer with his serve and baseline rallies.
Ferrer’s Saturday momentum was halted due to Saturday’s evacuation. Djokovic took advantage. He plays Monday evening, looking to defend his 2011 US Open title, against Andy Murray.