Summer of Serena sealed with a slam
That advantage showed in the first set as Williams put 64 per cent of her first serves into play, dominated the exchanges and won 30 points to Azarenka’s 18. But Williams then lost her serve in the opening game of the second set on a double fault. When she missed a return as Azarenka took a 2-0 lead, Williams shouted and banged the strings of her racket.
It was the sound of a champion exiting the zone, and she soon had to deal with a flashback. In her next service game, she was called for a foot fault on a serve on the same baseline where she had been called for a foot fault against Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals of the 2009 Open. That prompted one of the most infamous tirades in tennis history as Williams threatened and cursed at the lineswoman and was given a point penalty, awarding match point to Clijsters.
This time, Williams did not lose her temper, but after holding serve, she did look toward the male linesman behind the rose-coloured glasses who had called the foot fault and gave him a long, hard stare as she walked to her chair down, 1-2. “This is the first year in a long time I haven’t lost my cool,” said Williams, who also lost her temper with the chair umpire in last year’s loss in the final here to Samantha Stosur after being penalised a point for hindering Stosur while shouting during an exchange.
But while Williams did not implode Sunday, she did lose command as Azarenka won four of the next five games to even the match at one set apiece.
Azarenka certainly deserved some of the credit. Hardcourts are her best canvas. She won her first Grand Slam singles title in January at the Australian Open on a similar surface, and sharpened her game here by surviving a much tougher draw than Williams: defeating Stosur of Australia in a three-set quarter-final and defeating former number one Maria Sharapova in a three-set semi-final.
But Azarenka, who is six feet tall and possesses fine reach, is one of the game’s best returners and also has a remarkable ability to counter big returns off her own serve. As the match developed from a rout into a classic, she repeatedly came up with fast-twitch, quick-swinging half volleys from the baseline that surprised Williams.
And yet after two hours and 18 minutes, it was Williams leaping and dancing with delight, and Azarenka in tears in her chair. “It could have gone my way, probably yes, but it didn’t,” Azarenka said. “And it really, really hurts and those emotions come out and you feel sad, but its time to realise what happened today. You know, it was a great match. It was close but not for me.”
New York Times