Coming back from the brink of defeat, the fourth-ranked Williams showed her mettle and won the 2012 U.S. Open final 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 over Victoria Azarenka, who is ranked No. 1 and is the reigning Australian Open champ.
When this match started, it looked like Williams was heading for a blowout. But Azarenka is one of the game’s best returners and she is tough. The 23 year old from Belarus refused to to give up after Williams raced to an early lead and went on to break in the first game of the second set and throwing Williams off her game. As the match developed from a rout into a classic, Azarenka repeatedly came up with quick-swinging half volleys from the baseline that surprised her opponent.
It wastn’t until Azarenka was serving for the match at 5-4 that Williams rediscovered her mojo. In definitive fashion, Williams locked in to her mental toughness, breaking back and winning the last four games to bring all 23,771 fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium to their feet.
Williams, who won singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon and the London Olympics, needed her full mental reserves to claw back from a final-set deficit to win her fourth championship in New York and 15th overall major.
Sunday’s match was the first women’s final to go the distance since 1995. At 2 hours and 18 minutes it was the longest in time duration since 1981.
“Oh my god,” said Williams in her on-court speech after taking the title. “I honestly can’t believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, ‘Man, she’s playing so great.’ “
But Azarenka could not quite close the deal and as Williams celebrated, she sat in her chair and cried.
What makes Williams so spectacular? For starters, she came back from nearly a yearlong absence in June 2011 after a series of medical issues, including two foot surgeries and a hematoma in her stomach.
Williams also came back from a huge dissapointment in May, when she made personal history of another sort, by exiting for the first time in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament after losing to Virginie Razzano on clay at the French Open.
Since Paris however, Williams has been unstoppable. She has won the singles and women’s doubles at Wimbledon, the singles and doubles gold medals at the Summer Olympics and now changed her luck at the United States Open, the tournament where she won her first Grand Slam singles title in 1999 at age 17. With her victory today, Williams became the first woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same year since, well, she did it in 2002.
Is Serena Williams the best ever? Will we ever see a player as great as her again?