Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A 17th Title, and Looking Stronger Than Ever ; Serena Williams's Victory at U.S. Open Underscores Her Place atop Rankings

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A 17th Title, and Looking Stronger Than Ever ; Serena Williams's Victory at U.S. Open Underscores Her Place atop Rankings

Article excerpt

It took nearly three hours, but Serena Williams finally ground out another women's singles title at the U.S. Open by beating Victoria Azarenka, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1.

As it turned out, after 2 hours 45 minutes of raw emotion and territorial tennis, Serena Williams really could play in the wind, just as she has played and prevailed in so many conditions and circumstances through the years.

With her 32nd birthday approaching, Williams is in increasingly rare company as the major titles continue to pile up. Although she certainly wobbled in Sunday's U.S. Open final -- the longest recorded women's Open final -- and although Victoria Azarenka applied plenty of intense, next-generation pressure, there was ultimately no depriving Williams of another major celebration on a court where she has experienced plenty of disaster to go with her triumphs through the years.

This 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-1 victory gave her a fifth U.S. Open singles title and a 17th Grand Slam singles title. It also underscored her place atop the women's game.

She has had her most focused, consistently successful season, and yet Azarenka had defeated Williams in two of their last three matches. Each arrived in New York with one Grand Slam singles title in 2013.

This would be the tiebreaker, and although Williams cracked in the second set -- losing a 4-1 lead and twice failing to serve out the match -- she, and not the ferociously ambitious Azarenka, is now the undisputed player of the year.

"I felt almost disappointed with my year, to be honest," Williams said. "I felt like, yeah, I won the French Open, but I wasn't happy with my performances in the other two Slams and not even making it to the quarterfinals of one. So I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year."

There were other rewards, including prize money of $3.6 million, and a $1 million bonus for winning the U.S. Open Series, which put her at more than $50 million in career earnings.

"I think my dad got me into tennis because of the money, but me being naive and silly, I never thought about it," she said of her father, Richard Williams, long her primary coach along with her mother, Oracene Price. "I just thought I want to win. I wanted to do what Venus does."

She now holds a 13-3 edge in her series with Azarenka, the closest she has to a rival in the women's game at the moment.

"It's good for Serena that Vika is there at this stage; good for both of them," said Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams's coach. "I think the best way to progress is to be pushed by someone."

Azarenka has been pushing with increased success and resourcefulness -- mixing in drop shots and forays to the net Sunday -- but the bottom line is that Williams has won all eight of their Grand Slam matches.

When this one ended with a missed return, Williams jumped five times near the baseline and continued to exult after embracing Azarenka at the net. …

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