NEW YORK —
Still, Williams regrouped and regained control.
“In the third set, Serena really found a way to calm down and restart from zero and quickly erase what happened,” said Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
This was a rematch of last year’s final, also won by Williams in three sets, and two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka provided another challenge with her big swings off both wings.
“It is a tough loss, but to be in the final and play against the best player — who deserves to win today — it’s incredible,” said Azarenka, who is from Belarus. “I gave it all today. We showed our hearts. We fought hard.”
Four times, Azarenka was only two points from taking the opening set. At one such moment, with Williams serving at deuce after a double-fault, she was called for a foot fault, erasing what would have been a 121 mph ace. There was another foot-fault call in the second set, too. They brought back memories of the American’s loss to Kim Clijsters in the 2009 semifinals, when Williams was docked a point, and later fined, for a tirade against a line judge over a foot-fault call.
There was no such outburst directed at officials this time, although there was that racket toss. After the call in the match’s 10th game, Williams simply put a hand to her face, composed herself, and won the point with a down-the-line backhand she celebrated with a fist pump, some foot stomping and a yell of “Come on!”
Williams wound up holding there with a 104 mph ace, part of what seemed to be a match-altering stretch. She won five consecutive games and 16 of 18 points to take the first set and go up a break in the second.
“You could see she clicked,” Mouratoglou said. “She realized she was not aggressive enough. She was letting Vika dictate too much, and all of a sudden, things completely changed.”