Serena Williams beats Azarenka in U.S. Open final

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Serena Williams repeated as U.S. Open women's champion by holding off a battling Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-5 6-7(6) 6-1 in a windblown final at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday.

Williams bounded in a series of joyous jumping jack leaps after Azarenka's backhand sailed long on the second match point of a thrilling, two-hour 45-minute final that earned her a fifth U.S. Open singles title that took her total to 17 grand slams.

The big-hitting American, who turns 32 later this month, became the oldest U.S. Open women's winner since tennis turned professional 45 years ago, eclipsing Australian Margaret Court, who was 31 years and 55 days when she won the title in 1973.

The triumph moved Williams to within one grand slam singles crown of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for a tie for fourth place on the all-time list behind Court (24), Steffi Graf (22) and Helen Wills Moody (19).

It had looked like it was going to be plain sailing for Williams after she won a difficult first set, boosted by a late break in the 11th game for a 6-5 lead and then served out a love game before racing to a 4-1 second-set lead.

Williams, who earlier looked confounded by the gusty wind that affected service tosses and the direction of bounces off groundstrokes and was muttering to herself between points, finally settled into a rhythm in the second set.

"The wind was unbelievable," said the champion. "And it just got worse and worse and it never let up. But at this point you have to play under any circumstance."

She claimed the 4-1 lead after Azarenka double-faulted three times in the fifth and her U.S. Open repeat looked a certainty as she begun to find her range on her imposing service game that saw her serve broken only twice in six previous matches.

But Azarenka was not ready to capitulate.

"I think it was raising from the first point, the tension, the battle, the determination," the second seed said about the quality of the match. "It was really kind of like boiling the water. It felt from every point, it was rising the level."

'GREAT MATCH'

The Belarusian showed her fight and took advantage of a string of Williams errors to break right back for 4-2 and rode that momentum.

Twice Williams served for the match, at 5-4 and again at 6-5, but Azarenka rose up to break the American's serve and force a tiebreaker.

Williams took a 3-1 lead but Azarenka won five of the next six points to seize a 6-4 advantage and sent the match to a third set when Williams belted a backhand long to lose it 8-6.

"I think I got a little uptight," Williams said about squandering her chances. "I wasn't playing smart tennis. (But) you have to keep fighting for everything."

The third set stayed on serve until the fourth game when another double fault, her seventh of the match, sank Azarenka and handed Williams a 3-1 lead.

With the stadium crowd roaring their support for the home favorite, the American broke Azarenka two games later for good measure to make it 5-1 before she claimed victory when the Belarusian sent a backhand long on the second match point.

Williams blasted 36 winners in the match against 17 for Azarenka, and blasted nine aces against just two for the Belarusian, who won an impressive 10 of 15 points at the net when she stepped up the pressure on Williams.

"Victoria, you played unbelievable," said Williams at the trophy ceremony.

"What a great match and what a great person. Vika is such a great opponent, she's such a great fighter. It was never over until match point," added Williams.

The top seed collected the $2.6 million top prize and pocketed an addition $1 million bonus for having won the U.S. Open run-up series of tournaments.

Azarenka said she had been beaten by the better player.

"It is a tough loss. But the best player deserves the win today. I gave it all again this year," said Azarenka, who lost 7-5 in the third set to Williams in last year's final.

"We gave it everything we got."

In the men's doubles final, Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek were convincing winners over Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares.

The India-Czech pairing of Paes and Stepanek dominated the title match to record a 6-1 6-3 victory over their Austria-Brazil rivals.

Paes, 40, won his third U.S. Open doubles title and eighth major doubles title of his career. It was Stepanek's second major doubles win after claiming the 2012 Australian Open with Paes.

Stepanek, 34, said the win enabled them to qualify for an important goal.

"There is one thing we would like to achieve, and that's winning the world championships at the end of the year, because that's the trophy which is missing in Leander's showcase," the Czech said.

Croatia made a clean sweep of the junior singles titles when Borna Coric and Ana Konjuh posted victories at Flushing Meadows.

The fourth-seeded Coric beat Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis 3-6 6-3 6-1 in the boys' final before second-seeded Konjuh beat U.S. wildcard Tornado Black 3-6 6-4 7-6(6).

Coric, 16, said the U.S. Open would be his last junior tournament.

"I've won the slam" he said about his Sunday victory. "That was the goal at the beginning of the year."

Coric has been named to Croatia's Davis Cup team for the tie next week against Britain at Umag. (Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry/Peter Rutherford)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Delhi vs Kolkata

On Now: Delhi vs Kolkata

Pandey, Uthappa help Kolkata set Delhi a 167-run target. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as England coach

Moores gets second stint as England coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »