NEW YORK: World number one Serena Williams captured her fifth US Open title, and second in a row, by outlasting second-ranked Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1 to claim her 17th career Grand Slam crown on Sunday.
The 31-year-old American became the oldest Open Era women’s winner in US Open history, 293 days older than Margaret Court when she set the prior mark in 1973, and the third-oldest Grand Slam women’s champion of the Open Era.
Williams won $3.6 million, including a $1 million bonus for her success in US open tune-up events.
She is the first top-seeded champion since Justine Henin in 2007 and the first woman to defend the US Open crown since Kim Clijsters in 2010.
Williams won a rematch of last year’s US Open final that gave her and Azarenka a combined total of six of the eight major titles from the past two years.
Williams improved to 13-3 in their rivalry but two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka had won two of the previous three, most recently in last month’s Cincinnati final.
“Victoria you played unbelievable,” Williams said. “What a great match and a great person. It’s an honour to play against you.
“Vika is such a great opponent and such a great fighter. That’s why she has won multiple Grand Slam titles. It was never over until match point.”
Azarenka admitted Williams was the superior performer in windy conditions at Arthur Ashe stadium.
“It’s a tough loss but being in the final against the best player, who deserves the win, it’s incredible,” Azarenka said. “I gave it everything I had. I fought hard but well deserved. Congratulations Serena.”
Williams matched Steffi Graf for second on the Open Era list with five US Open trophies, one shy of Chris Evert’s record, and moved one adrift of Martina Navratilova and Evert for second on the Open Era Slam win list.
Graf has the Open Era record of 22 while Australian Margaret Court owns the all-time mark of 24.
The match lasted two hours and 45 minutes to become the longest US Open women’s final since timing began in 1980, five minutes longer than the old mark set in 1981 when Tracy Austin outlasted US compatriot Martina Navratilova 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1).
Williams became the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to win the US and French Opens in the same year.
With the victory, Williams has won more than $9 million in 2013, a one-year women’s record, and boosted her career winnings above $50 million as well as capturing her ninth title of the year, a one-season personal best.
Williams, who lost only 16 games over her first six matches, battled windy conditions and a determined foe in a rematch of last year’s final to add to the New York hardcourt trophy haul that included wins in 1999, 2002, 2008 and 2012.
Williams seized a 4-1 lead in the second set but Azarenka broke her twice as she served for the match, and took her into a tie-breaker, where she was twice denied by the American on set points.
But after Azarenka swatted a service winner to lead 7-6, Williams sent a forehand long and found herself in a third set.
Azarenka owned the momentum entering the final set but double faulted away a break to Williams, who promptly fired three aces in the fifth game to hold for a a 4-1 lead, one of them the fastest of the tournament by anyone at 126 mph.
When Azarenka netted a baseline forehand to surrender a break, Williams had her third chance to serve for the title.
This time, she did not fail. Both women hit 57 percent of their first serves, Williams improving after a horrid start while adjusting to the wind.
Azarenka worked magical drop shots and won 10 of 15 points when she came to the net. Williams had 36 winners and 35 unforced errors to 17 winners and 27 unforced errors for Azarenka.
Swirling winds baffled both players from the start before 23,584 spectators at Arthur Ashe Stadium, with Williams and Azarenka exchanging breaks to open the match as they adapted to the breezy conditions.
“I can’t play in this wind,” Williams muttered after the third game, with her pink dress bottom often flapping in the breeze when she swung at the ball, a choice of wardrobe malfunction given the blustery conditions.
Twice Williams was called for foot faults, a reminder of the tirade she unleashed for a foot fault call against her in a 2009 US Open semifinal with Kim Clijsters, one that caused her to surrender the match on a penalty point. AFP