By Associated Press
Finally tested, even trailing, at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams turned things around just in time.
Two points from defeat, Williams suddenly regained her composure and her strokes, coming back to beat top-ranked Victoria Azarenka on Sunday night for her fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 15th Grand Slam title overall.
‘I honestly can’t believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, “Man, she’s playing so great,” Williams said during the trophy presentation after the 2-hour, 18-minute match, adding: ‘I’m really shocked.’
The victory came as little surprise to sports analysts, however, as Williams hadn’t dropped a set in the tournament, losing only 19 games through six matches before Sunday.
The win at the Open comes months after she had an unexpectedly quick exit from the French Open in May, which marked , the American’s only first-round exit in 49 career major tournaments. Since then, she is 26-1, winning Wimbledon and the London Olympics.
There hadn’t been a three-set women’s final in New York since 1995, and Williams came through with a late charge to become the first woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same season since a decade ago, when – yes, that’s right – she did it.
‘Serena deserves the win. She showed how true of a champion she is,’ said Azarenka. ‘I definitely gave it all today. Stepping out of this court today, I will have no regrets.’
As the third set commenced, Williams’ mother, Oracene Price, told her from the stands, ‘Settle down.’
Williams kept whatever excitement she might have felt after winning a crucial point because of an unforced error by Azarenka contained, face straight as possible, while her older sister, seven-time major champion Venus, smiled and clapped in the stands.
After the final point, Azarenka slumped in her changeover chair, a white towel covering her head, as Williams kept saying, ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’ while scurrying over to share the joy with her mother and big sister.
Williams, who turns 31 on September 26, is the first 30-year-old woman to win the U.S. Open since Martina Navratilova in 1987.
Williams is dominating the sport right now, and she’s been dominant, off and on, for more than a decade.
She won her very first major championship at age 17 at the 1999 U.S. Open. Winning titles 13 years apart at the same Grand Slam tournament represents the longest span of success in the professional era.
Worries about a potentially dangerous storm led the tournament to postpone Williams-Azarenka, making this the fourth time in the last five years that the U.S. Open women’s final was pushed from Saturday to Sunday.
Both women had issues with the officiating – though nothing compared to Williams’ misadventures in the past.
In the 2009 semifinals, Williams was angered by a foot-fault call that resulted in a double-fault, setting up match point for her opponent, Kim Clijsters. Williams launched into a racket-brandishing tirade that resulted in a fine and a Grand Slam probation that made her be on her best behavior or risk being suspended.
Then, while losing to Stosur in last year’s final, Williams lost her cool and berated the chair umpire – ‘You’re just unattractive inside,’ was among the noteworthy lines – after being docked a point for screaming during a point.
This time, there was a foot-fault call, too. She didn’t react at all immediately, finished off that game, then stared down the linesman as she walked to the sideline at the ensuing changeover. He chuckled a bit.