Monday, August 19, 2013

2013 CINCY: Azarenka Wins Title As Serena Falters At End

To the surprise of many, including yours truly, Victoria Azarenka was able to outlast Serena Williams in the deciding portions of the the third set and win the 2013 Western & Southern Open 2-6 6-2 7-6(6). For only the third time in fifteen meetings, Vika was able to defeat Serena, ending a 14-match winning streak. Serena dropped to 50-4 for the season with 8 titles, while Azarenka won her 3rd. However, she has now beaten Serena in 2 title matches in 2013 and is 3-all in career finals against her.

The match was  a seesaw affair with Serena running away with the first set in 26 minutes and then making over 2 dozen errors in the second set to lose it by an identical score. In the third set Azarenka broke first and held to go up 4-2 and led 30-0 on her own serve when Serena turned things around and won 3 consecutive games to serve for the match at 5-4. Almost everyone expected the 16-time major champion to close out the match at that point but she got broken relatively easily (failing to make crucial first serves) and the deciding tiebreak was the result. In the tiebreak Azarenka was ahead 2-0 and 4-2 but then Serena was up to 5-4 on her own serve. In a significant exchange Azarenka hit a running forehand down the line and was pulled way off court so that all Serena had to do was bunt the ball on the backhand side into the court to go up 6-4 and she hit it four feet long. She double faulted at 5-all to give Azarenka championship point and then hit a service return winner to save championship point but after a good first serve Azarenka had a second championship point, which she won when an errant Serena backhand hit the top of the tape.

It will be interesting to see if they both get to the finals of the US Open final in 3 weeks what will happen. It is clear that Azarenka is not intimidated by Serena and her recent results indicate that she shouldn't be!

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