Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Serena Wins 15th Major Title

As I predictedSerena Williams won her 4th US Open title and her 15th grand slam title of her legendary career by coming back from behind to defeat #1 seed Victoria Azarenka  6-2 2-6 7-5 in one of the most dramatic women's finals in New York in the last two decades. It was a match of historic proportions.

Not since 1995 had a women's final of the US Open gone to three sets (when Steffi Graf beat Monica Seles) and not since 1994 had a player come back from losing the first set to win the US Open, something Azarenka was poised to do when she broke Serena in the 7th game of the third set and held serve to go up 5-3 in the decider. Serena was able to hold serve in the crucial 9th game and force her opponent to serve out the match for her first US Open title. Azarenka cracked and Serena was able to break back to even the match at 5-all and then hold serve herself relatively easily to go up 6-5.

In the deciding game Azarenka was able to battle back from 15-30 down to reach deuce and had a game point to force a third set tiebreak, something which had not happened in a major final since Hana Mandlikova prevented Martina Navratilova from achieving the calendar Grand Slam in 1985. However, Serena won that point to force another deuce when Azarenka's backhand clipped the tape of the net and fell back on her side of the net. The deuce point ended on another Azarenka error and it was match point Serena. After another second serve returned powerfully by Serena Azarenka was behind in the point and eventually hit a backhand long to lose the point, the game, the set and the championship.

By winning the 2012 US Open Serena became the first woman over 30 years old to win the last major of the year since 1981, and her two major wins of the year establish her as the best player on the women's tour (though because she reached the final here last year, she will only rise to #4 in the rankings while Azarenka will remain atop the rankings at #1). This is her 15th major title, only three behind the final career totals of Navratilova and Chris Evert and it looks like Serena will be able to reach that gaudy total and vault herself into the conversation of greatest female tennis player ever.

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