NEW YORK —
Well, at least for a while.
Williams’ lead grew to 4-1 in the second set, before Azarenka made things competitive again, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Azarenka is responsible for two of Williams’ four losses this season. Entering Sunday, Azarenka was 31-1 on hard courts this season, and showed why for portions of the final, playing far better than she had in her preceding six matches in New York.
“From the first point,” Azarenka said, “the tension, the battle, the determination — it was ... kind of like boiling the water or something.”
But she simply could not keep pace with Williams, who eventually adjusted to her opponent and the wind that topped 15 mph. Williams put aside her issues to finish with a 36-17 edge in winners.
At the outset, though, the wind clearly bothered her as much as Azarenka did.
“It wasn’t pleasant,” Azarenka said, referring to the gusts.
Williams caught service tosses. She grabbed at her skirt to keep it from flying up. And, most importantly, she was thrown off by balls that danced oddly. Six of the first 16 points ended with unforced errors by Williams, which allowed Azarenka to go ahead 2-1.
Looking hesitant at times, Williams did not show the same dominance she had while dropping only 16 games during six straight-set victories through the semifinals. And after Williams did go ahead, Azarenka made things interesting with a hard-hitting comeback.
The first time Williams served for the championship, at 5-4, Azarenka hit a cross-court forehand winner for break point, then forced a backhand long. Williams came right back to break for a 6-5 edge. Given a second chance to serve it out, she double-faulted to get broken for the fourth time.
A year ago, they played the first three-set women’s final in New York since 1995. And they went the distance again, a total of 2 hours, 45 minutes, because Azarenka was superior in the tiebreaker.