Sunday's U.S. Open Women's Singles Final started as a tennis match, then a prize fight broke out. Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka exhibited quite a battle in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Williams won the fight, 7-5, 6-7, 6-1.
The prize from a monetary standpoint, was $2.6 million for the winner. For Williams, add another million for finishing first in the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series. But for these two, the big prize was another Grand Slam Title to add to their trophy case. Azarenka was looking for her first U.S. Open title, for Williams her fifth.
Early, it was Williams struggling, particularly with the wind firing a slew of unforced errors. She finished the match with 35. But was able to break Azarenka's serve twice in the first set despite losing hers once, and closed out the set at 7-5.
In the second set it looked as though Williams would cruise to another title going up 2 breaks on the native of Belarus. But Azarenka showed again, that she is a fighter. Just as it appeared it would be Williams in two, she broke back twice denying Williams as she served for the match.
Azarenka forced a second set tiebreak. The two fired explosive shots at each other in the tiebreaker and it was Williams who became frustrated. Azarenka finally closed out the second set taking the tiebreak 8-6, forcing a decisive third set.
Williams was no longer just fighting the wind, she was fighting herself after unforced errors and poor service at key times in the second set. She was unable to contain her frustration towards the end of the second set slamming her racket on the court and tossing it as she walked to her chair after losing the set.
But just as it appeared that Azarenka had all of the momentum and the match going her way, Williams found another gear and fought back breaking Azarenka early in the third set, putting the frustration of the second set behind her. She did not look back breaking again and finally wore down the number 2 player in the World after taking her best shot, 6-1 in the third.
Williams could not contain herself, jumping for joy after winning the decisive point. She had praise for her opponent after the match, "What a great match and what a great person. Vika is such a great opponent, she's such a great fighter. It was never over until match point."
Azarenka summed up the Final accurately, "We gave it everything we got."
Both of these fighters certainly did with neither willing to back down and after the match there was a healthy respect for each other. “She is a champion, and she knows what it takes to get there", Azarenka acknowledged.
Williams certainly knew how to get there on Sunday and 4 times previously, but you have to think that it is only a matter of time before Azarenka raises the cup in New York. She has enough fight in her game to accomplish that.
The match concluded an interesting two weeks for the Women, but much like the Men's Draw, it was one versus two meeting in the Final. Tonight, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic take center stage to determine the Men's Champion.