Neither tornadoes in the New York City-area nor the women’s field in the 2012 US Open were able to stop Serena Williams from winning her fourth US Open title. Williams collapsed to the tennis court and then jumped for joy immediately after her victory, the 15th Grand Slam victory of her career after the Sunday final, pushed back a day because of poor weather conditions the previous day. But the win wasn’t as easy as it seemed in the first set, as she appeared to be on her way to winning her third US Open title without losing a set, something she accomplished in 2002 and 2008, after winning the first 13 sets in which she played. But the 14th set was the first she lost in the tournament, and in the 15th, she was down 3-5, and at one point, Williams was actually two points away from losing her second-straight US Open final, as she was defeated the previous year in the final by underdog Samantha Stosur.
Serena dominated the first set of the 2012 US Open Women’s Final the same way she vanished her first six opponents, winning 6-2, and breaking the serve of her opponent, 23-year old Victoria Azarenka, ranked #1 in the world, three times. It appeared that the 30-year old Williams would win the final easily as well, but Azarenka stormed back to take the second set 6-2, to create the first US Open Women’s final to go to a third set in 17 years, when Steffi Graf defeated Monica Seles 7-6 (6), 0-6, 6-3 in 1995.
Williams and Azarenka traded breaks in the third and final set, and Azarenka was in control, up 5-3 and a break. At 30-30, Williams took over, holding serve, then breaking Azarenka to tie the set at five. Serena then held serve again before converting a final break that crowned her the Queen of Queens.
Serena talked about her opponent being two points away from handing her defeat after the match. “At 30-all I figured I could serve out and just make her serve for it…after that, I thought I could just force another game and obviously never give up. I never, never quit. I have come back so many times in so many matches.”
With her win, Williams becomes the first woman ever to win a Grand Slam title in three different decades. “That’s kinda cool” she responded, when asked about the accomplishment. Serena praised the play of her opponent. “You can tell by the score line that she really worked hard and she pushed me.”
Azarenka also had positive things to say about Williams. “She never gives up…she’s definitely the toughest player mentally there is.” Vika continued, with an upbeat attitude. “I have to be positive, you know, because I feel like these kind of matches, every time I play Serena, it really pushes (me) to be better, to improve, to move forward. I have to be thankful to her for that.”
With her fourth US Open Women’s Title, Serena tied Martina Navratilova with four wins, and trails only Chris Evert with six titles, and Graf with five. A few weeks shy of her 31 birthday, Williams is also the second-oldest to ever win the title, trailing only Margaret Court, who won in 1973 at 31. If Serena is able to repeat next year, she would become the oldest woman to win the title, in addition to the fourth-youngest, which she accomplished when she won in 1999 at the age of 17. Winning US Open titles 13 years apart also is the largest span between championships, breaking the record of 11 by Court. It is also the longest period of time between Grand Slam titles, breaking the record of 12 jointly held by Evert and Navratilova. Williams became the first player to win multiple Grand Slam titles in the same year since she won the Australian Open and Wimbledon two years ago.
Through the first six rounds of the 2012 US Open, Williams defeated Coco Vandeweghe, 6-1, 6-1, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-2, 6-4, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4, 6-0, Andrea Hlavackova, 6-0, 6-0, Ana Ivanovic, 6-1, 6-3, and Sara Errani, 6-1, 6-2, before getting to the final. At one point, Serena won an amazing 23-straight games.
A few weeks shy of turning 31, Williams is playing arguably the best tennis of her storied career. Her 15 Grand Slam titles only put her behind Court, with 24, Graf, with 22, Helen Wills Moody, with 19, and Evert and Navratilova, both with 18. While winning another nine Grand Slam titles may be a bit unrealistic at her age, entering the top five by passing Evert and Navratilova may be a goal of hers for the duration of her career.
But if you think Serena is retiring anytime soon, think again. She has no desire to retire, and, with the recent retirements of her good friend Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters, she has fielded numerous questions about ending her career at the US Open.
When asked if seeing two of her peers retire makes her want to retire as well, Serena replied “Honestly I thought I definitely don’t want to end it. Like I feel like if anything, I want to be here even more and play even more.” Later, when asked how she would like to retire and end her career, she said “haven’t thought about it whatsoever, so I don’t even know what I would do.” It is far too early for discussion of an athlete’s retirement when clearly at the top of the sport, and Serena is certainly that right now.
There were numerous entertainers in the star-studded crowd of 23,771 on hand for the match, which lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes, including tennis legends Billie Jean King and Boris Becker, New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Mets pitcher RA Dickey, actors Will Ferrell, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Judd Hirsch, and James Caviezel, actresses Jennifer Connelly, Minka Kelly,and Vivica Fox, musicians Redfoo of LMFAO and Mandy Moore, supermodel Tyra Banks, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.